[Letter to the editor]Report only stokes vindictivenessIt’s still 1760 B.C. in Korea. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s decision to release the names of judges who convicted perpetrators of former President Park’s emergency decrees clearly shows that this government cannot think outside the frame of the “eye for an eye” Code of Hammurabi. Moreover, the method with which the commission is carrying out its job is highly illicit for Korea’s judicial future.
The commission’s goal is to debunk the trumped-up charges, black-bag jobs, and cover-ups that Park’s police state inflicted upon the Koreans, restore the reputation of the falsely accused, and prevent such miscarriages of justice from happening again. However, it has obstructed its own goal by releasing the names of the judges so that the media can have a field day and the public can feel vindictive.
By focusing the target of the blame on a number of scapegoats, the Commission is distracting itself from its real target of finding constructive solutions―aiding an active reform of the judiciary, for example―to prevent the government from repeating such errors. I sincerely regret to say that the Supreme Court, too, was confused enough to support the Commission’s decision by releasing additional reference material. The Court’s implicit agreement on the decision blatantly shows that the judiciary accepts such a regressive solution and wants to avoid responsibility for the matter. If anyone must be held responsible, it is the judiciary; it must take proactive measures to improve, not depend on other entities.
Moreover, the Commission’s extralegal method of disclosing names and drawing the public’s attention seems to encourage vigilante justice and witch-hunting, which are demonstrative traits of mobocracy. One may say that the judges deserve condemnation because they helped the government oppress the people, and if the government isn’t willing to punish them, the people have the right to do so.
However, no matter how unethical the judges’ practices were, it is undeniable that they were abiding by the law. Under the Yushin Constitution, such practices―which do violate present-day laws―were legal during that time. Today’s Republic of Korea does not tolerate ex post facto laws, and thus, their past “legal” wrongdoings cannot be punished by law in the present. And this is why the people do not have the right to “try and sentence” the named judges and turn them into scapegoats: no one has the right to take justice into his or her own hands.
Finally, on a less legal note, we must try to understand what it was like to live in such dark times. It may be tempting to accuse the judges of “supporting Park’s tyranny” for “convicting perpetrators of the emergency decrees,” but I do not want to translate the former clause into the latter. For one thing, they were carrying out their legal duties. For another, they were simply being human. I cannot blame a person for not wanting to disappear into a black bag and experience an excruciating death in a dingy cell in the Intelligence Agency. Now is not the time to want to feel vindictive and certainly not the time to waste time and tax revenue quibbling over who followed the emergency decrees and who did not.
Yunsieg Kim, a senior at Daewon Foreign Language High School