[EDITORIALS]Hands off the courtsChief Justice Choi Jong-young ended his six-year term and left the court yesterday. In his farewell address, the departing chief justice expressed regrets that “there occur frequent attempts at challenging the authority of the court and degrading its dignity in the name of public opinion or civil groups.” If there is an attempt to influence the court through means other than judicial procedure, it will hurt the dignity of the judiciary and endanger the principles of the rule of law.
It was not only Chief Justice Choi who expressed worries over the damage to the authority of the judiciary. Kim Young-il, a former justice of the Constitutional Court, said in March upon his retirement, “There are people who disparage the decision of the Constitutional Court and behave imprudently. I doubt if they have the will to work for the country, defend the constitution and represent the opinion of the people.” Kang Byung-sup, former head of the Seoul Central District Court, warned when he retired from the court in August, “It is a crisis situation for the judiciary that the opinion of politicians and civic groups that advocate reform and progressivism influences the court.”
The bashing of the judiciary by the ruling camp and civic groups became obvious when the Constitutional Court decided that the special law for the establishment of an administrative capital was unconstitutional last October. The dominant analysis is, however, that at the bottom of their mind there is a deep-rooted distrust of the composition of the judiciary that is bound to be conservative by nature. Of course, unbalanced court rulings damaged the credibility of the court: Light sentences for corrupt politicians degraded the court’s credibility. The worries expressed by the judiciary these days are, however, a different matter. There is an atmosphere in which certain forces try to dominate the whole judiciary. The acts of shouting inside the courts and cursing loudly the panel of judges after they handed down heavy sentences to the accused are the reflections of such an atmosphere.
If the authority of the judiciary is damaged, as pointed out by Mr. Choi, the rule of law, the backbone of our society, will be shaken and our democracy will be degraded to a mobocracy. For the rule of law, we all have to honor the decisions of the judiciary. The members of the judiciary must keep this in mind that they must defend the independence of the judiciary.