[EDITORIALS]Did courts favor legislators?The press has published a photo of Uri Party Chairman Moon Hee-sang holding a memo from a lawmaker in his party on a legal case involving his indictment for violating an election law. The opposition has insisted that this is proof that the governing party wrongfully used its influence, since the photo shows the names of the judges, the court case number and the name of the chief justice.
Mr. Moon and the Uri Party retorted, “Now, the world has changed. How can anyone try to exercise pressure on the judiciary?” They say it was a personal problem of the lawmaker and has nothing to do with influence peddling. Despite the explanation, doubts still linger. Why should they write the court case number and the name of the chief justice on a mere report of a personal problem? Questions have been raised as to whether the courts favored legislators, after they allowed them to keep their positions by sentencing them to be fined between 800,000 to 900,000 won ($788 to $886) for violating election laws.
Among the 47 lawmakers who were tried on election law violations, 19 were punished with fines of more than 1 million won, thus depriving them of their Assembly seats. At the appeals court trial, however, only seven of them actually received such heavy sentences. In Daegu last month, the prosecution indicted but did not detain a governing party lawmaker who received over 100 million won. It has aroused controversy over the balanced application of law, because the prosecutors had made it a rule that people who accepted more than 50 million won would be detained.
Right before the legislative elections last year, the court decided at a meeting of chief judges that “a fine of 800,000 to 900,000 won is not enough punishment for those who violate the election law.” It was the reflection of the courts’ past practices on election law violators. If we look at the results of the first trial, we can say that the decision was observed to a certain degree.
But the appeals courts’ decisions indicate that the old vices will be repeated. If this is the result of influence peddling by politicians, or the remarks of some governing party lawmakers, they pose a serious problem.
If the governing party thinks it can exercise influence because it is the ruling party, it is a dangerous idea. If it tries to do so, the foundation of democracy will be shaken to its root.