Chief justice’s car pelted with eggs after court ruling
Friction between the court and the prosecution is at the boiling point after Wednesday’s acquittal of the production staff of a 2008 episode of the television program “PD Diary” about mad cow disease.
Members of ultra-right groups hurled eggs at Chief Justice Lee Yong-hoon’s car yesterday morning as he headed to work. Police said about 50 people were at the scene demanding Lee’s resignation. They said he should be held responsible for the “leftist verdict.”
“The situation at present is in disorder,” Prosecutor General Kim Joon-gyu said. “However, prosecutors should continue to dauntlessly pursue their rightful path.” He made his comments during a video conference with all 1,700 prosecutors around the country. With this controversial judicial decision, the ruling Grand National Party and the nation’s prosecutors are sharply criticizing various judges.
On Wednesday, Seoul Central District Court Judge Mun Sung-gwan acquitted five Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation staff members of defaming government officials and businesses related to U.S. beef imports when the network broadcast a PD Diary episode on the safety of American beef. The episode suggested the beef could carry the agent that causes mad cow disease. Last June, prosecutors charged the MBC staff members for defaming former agriculture minister Chung Woon-chun and Min Dong-seok, chief negotiator on the U.S. beef import deal. Judge Mun said that although some misinterpretations may have taken place in the report, they can’t be seen as intentional on the part of MBC.
With recent politically charged court cases continuing to split the nation, the ruling Grand National Party has been pushing for reform of the judiciary which it claims is tainted by a “self-righteous” attitude and judges who are “politically prejudiced and lack experience.”
Judge Mun’s ruling was heavily criticized by members of the ruling party, including floor leader Ahn Sang-soo. “The mad cow disease ruling is atrocious,” he said yesterday. “After hearing the verdict, I thought that a young, inexperienced judge should not hold the knife and that the tyranny of the judiciary has gotten out of hand.”
After the ruling, the Justice Ministry held an emergency, executive-level meeting led by Justice Minister Lee Kwi-nam that concluded the system in which the chief justice is solely allowed to appoint judges should change. The court-prosecution conflict was set in motion by earlier decisions, including the acquittal by Seoul Southern District Court of opposition lawmaker Kang Ki-kab, head of the Democratic Labor Party. Kang had been charged with obstructing official parliamentary duties after violence at the National Assembly last year.
Meanwhile, the main opposition Democratic Party sided with the judiciary. It called, instead, for changes in the nation’s prosecution system. “The decision [concerning MBC staffers] is a fair decision by the judge based on the law and social conscience,” said Representative Woo Yoon-keun of the DP.
By Cho Jae-eun [email@example.com]
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