[EDITORIALS]A lesson in the rule of lawThe Supreme Court has upheld the verdicts of the National Intelligence Service’s former head, Lim Dong-won, and others who were indicted over the millions in secret funds sent to North Korea. Thus, one year after the special counsel team began its inquiry, the guilt of six of those indicted in the case has been established. The only one not yet confirmed guilty is Park Jie-won, former Blue House chief of staff under President Kim Dae-jung.
The ruling has an especially large significance in that it sets a clear standard of what is exempt from the rule of law and what is not when it comes to acts of state. The defendants claimed that the money transfer to the North had been condoned by the state in consideration of the special nature of inter-Korean relations.
But in its ruling, the Supreme Court declared that even though it acknowledged there were acts of state of such a highly political nature that the judiciary must refrain from passing judgment on them, sending $450 million to the North while violating a number of legal procedures did not apply to such acts of state and thus was subject to judiciary judgment. The court, in effect, stated clearly that even if an act of state was committed for political reasons, any violations of procedures that occurred in the process of carrying out the act would be subject to the rule of law.
It is also worth noting that the Supreme Court reaffirmed the original sentence which had emphasized the need to seek a national consensus on some state affairs. The national projects involving the North in the past governments were decided by a few select figures in closed discussion and thus generated criticism of having been too one-sided. Of course, obtaining a national consensus would take a long time and cause labor pains. Even so, the Supreme Court ruled that procedural legitimacy and transparency in decision-making is more important.
Nobody objects to the improvement of North-South relations and humanitarian aid to the North must continue. But the process must be transparent. The government must keep opposition parties informed of progress in their projects concerning the North. That is how we could draw up a national consensus and prevent any illegal acts. This is the lesson of the Supreme Court ruling.