[EDITORIALS]Change the parole systemThe Ministry of Justice confirmed that it was considering abolishing the practice of requiring an oath to obey the law by persons jailed for endangering public safety as a prerequisite for parole. The ministry is also planning the release of prisoners detained for violating the National Security Law and labor related laws.
Abolishing the oath could be a sign of a new era, but we urge caution on granting special pardons.
Even after the Constitutional Court’s ruling last year that the practice is constitutional, the oath has been under constant criticism. The oath was used to prevent professor Song Du-yeul, a dissident scholar based in Germany, from visiting Seoul. Whenever such incidents have taken place, lawyers and civic groups have demanded that the oath be abolished on the grounds that it restricts freedom of conscience. The Justice Ministry and the Public Prosecutors Office have insisted on keeping it, citing the security situation on the Korean Peninsula, where the North and the South confront each other.
Considering the times in which we live, the eventual demise of the oath is foreseeable. The way the prosecution applies the National Security Law is not the same as in the past. And people no longer see violators of public- safety related laws as serious criminals. There is no need to keep them under special scrutiny. The oath was introduced in 1998 to replace “ideology conversion,” which required communist or socialist political prisoners to repudiate their beliefs to be paroled. With changes in the political and social environment, the entire process seems antiquated.
We urge, however, that parole be dealt with from a different perspective. The current pardon system is a remnant of an absolute monarchy. Around the world there are calls for restricting or abolishing presidential paroles. In Korea, too, there is a movement to limit presidential pardons.
We advise that even special pardons be avoided, not to mention general paroles. Kim Dae-jung’s government issued pardons six times in five years, which raised criticism that he abused presidential power; what’s more, the selection criterion and principles behind the pardons were not transparent.