Kang ruling sparks clash of nation’s politicians

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Kang ruling sparks clash of nation’s politicians

The controversy surrounding lawmaker Kang Ki-kab’s not-guilty verdict for violence at the National Assembly has turned politically nasty with the nation’s political parties clashing yesterday. Now, the national association of lawyers has joined critics of the ruling.

The Legislation and Judiciary Committee at the National Assembly yesterday summoned Justice Park Il-hwan to discuss the not-guilty ruling handed down by the Seoul Southern District Court last week.

Kang, chairman of the minority opposition Democratic Labor Party, was cleared of his charges of obstruction of justice and public duties last week following his outburst at the Assembly last year.

The Seoul Southern Prosecutors’ Office filed an appeal Monday to contest the court’s “arbitrary interpretation.” The court has countered that prosecutors shouldn’t be sending messages through media and should instead honor the independence of the court’s jurisdiction.

Representatives of the ruling Grand National Party launched attacks on Justice Park. Joo Sung-young, a former prosecutor, said the court’s argument for its independence of jurisdiction “didn’t necessarily mean the judicial branch had to be independent from the public and the constitution.”

Park wondered aloud how the court would be able to conduct fair trials “when the National Assembly goes berserk over only the first trial.”

The GNP called for judicial reforms, but the Democratic Labor Party released a statement saying the ruling party “should be more concerned about its political reform.”

“It’s unsightly for ruling lawmakers to get involved in a court ruling,” the statement read. “GNP members must stop acting as if they were Supreme Court justices and put an end to their unconstitutional behavior.”

The main opposition Democratic Party also backed the beleaguered Park. “I don’t remember the last time a Supreme Court justice was so pounded by the ruling party over a verdict,” said Park Ji-won of the DP.

The Korean Bar Association issued a statement yesterday to criticize the court ruling.

“We have difficulty accepting some of the logic applied to the Kang ruling, and we doubt that it conforms to precedents at the Supreme Court,” the statement read. The association said it was “inappropriate” for the Supreme Court to shrug off criticism by citing independence of the judiciary because “verdicts are for the people and the people must be guaranteed freedom to express opinions on verdicts.”

Lawyers for a Democratic Society, a liberal group, demanded the bar association withdraw its statement and said the association “must not make politically charged comments on a controversial issue.”

By Yoo Jee-ho [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]

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