[EDITORIALS]Ethics needed in the judiciaryThe prosecution has launched a special crackdown on corruption in the assignment of cases to lawyers. A total of 139 people, including 13 lawyers, have been criminally charged, and the names of nine of the lawyers were sent to the Korean Bar Association with the recommendation that they be disciplined. Among the lawyers charged were former high-ranking officials in the prosecutors’ office and a former presiding judge.
The crackdown proved again that “case brokering” and abuse of the privileges of one’s former post are the most common types of corruption in the domestic judiciary system. Some of the “case brokers” exclusively sought lawyers who were former public officials, in order to take advantage of their connections. Brokers even designed a search program that provided information about connections among judges, prosecutors and lawyers, which shows how sophisticated their techniques have become. These brokers asked for average commissions of 20 to 30 percent of the case fee, extra money that came out of the pockets of the clients.
The reason corruption in the judiciary system does not seem to stop is, first of all, the lack of professional ethics among lawyers. With the number of successful candidates for the bar examination having increased to 1,000 a year, competition for cases has become fierce, often leading to illegal practices. But the leniency with which the Justice Ministry and the Korean Bar Association treats these corrupt lawyers is also a problem. Search warrants and warrants to track lawyers’ financial transactions are often turned down by the court, and lawyers disciplined by the Korean Bar Association often return to their illegal practices. There is criticism over such “blind solidarity” within the bench and bar.
Corruption in judicial circles breeds skepticism about the fairness of trials, and ultimately leads to public distrust of the entire system. Therefore, it is urgent that we come up with fundamental solutions. The Judicial Reform Committee should examine ways to restrict the appointment of former judges and prosecutors to cases dealt with by the offices where they’d worked within a certain period of time. Of course, care must be taken that none of these measures infringe on the constitutional freedom to choose one’s profession. Stricter punishment and disciplinary measures for corrupt lawyers, and compulsory ethical education for lawyers, should also be implemented.