[EDITORIALS]When Justice Appears to Be Partial
Controversy over the equity of the working of the law has risen with the very different sentences the court imposed on parents who got their children into college by falsifying graduation certificates from foreign schools and departure and entry records.
In February, the Seoul District Court sentenced 26 parents to a stay of execution and fines, but on Tuesday it pronounced a jail sentences for three parents who stood trial on the same charges. How can the assessment of similar cases be so different?
We sympathize to some extent with the second judge's reasons for a harsher ruling: "We judged that they should receive severe penalties because irregularities in military conscriptions and college admissions have a tendency to recur." Some people point out that such offenses continue because violators were handled with kid gloves. Judges cannot be expected to have the same standards, but it is confusing when the two judges' assessments of similar cases are poles apart, as they were in these examples.
There is a representative case that eroded the people's confidence over the issue of physical detention by the court. In February, the Seoul District Court sentenced Kim Yoon-whan, 69, head of the Democratic National Party, to five years' imprisonment and 3.35 billion won ($2.5 million) in fines under the Aggravated Punishment of Special Crime Act for receiving bribes, but he was not taken from the court to prison. The court gave as the reason for failing to execute its sentence that he was of an advanced age and active in politics as the head of a political party. It was an extremely unusual, unfair execution of the law in light of the type of offense, the amount of money he received and the scale of the penalty that was imposed. It was natural that citizens criticized the court for seeming to dart a nervous glance at political powers.
Recently the Supreme Court emphasized in a booklet on criminal trials distributed to judges that they should make use of court arrests to exhibit their authority and the strictness of the law execution. What is more crucial, however, is that the execution of the law remains within the realm of common sense. We believe it is undesirable when the court is lenient before powerful politicians but strict on ordinary people.