Chief justice’s car pelted with eggs after court ruling

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Chief justice’s car pelted with eggs after court ruling

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Prosecutor General Kim Joon-gyu presides over a video conference with prosecutors across the nation yesterday at the headquarters of the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office in Seoul. By Ahn Seong-sik


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 [jainnie@joongang.co.kr]
Related Korean Article

`우공이산` 화두 김준규 검찰총장 속내는



김준규 검찰총장이 21일 검찰 간부들과의 오찬 자리에서 '우공이산'(愚公移山)이란 화두를 던졌다.

PD수첩 제작진에 대한 법원의 무죄 선고에 "납득하지 못할 판결"이라며 불편한 심기를 노골적으로 표현한 바로 다음날의 발언이어서 진의에 특별히 관심이 쏠린다.

우공이산은 '어리석은 영감이 산을 옮긴다'는 뜻의 고사성어.

옛날 중국 북산이란 곳에 사는 우공이란 노인이 90에 가까운 나이에도 통행을 방해하는 둘레 700리의 산 두 개를 옮기려 했다는 데서 유래했다.

주위의 만류에도 우공은 "나는 후손이 있지만 산은 불어나는 일이 없으니 언젠가는 평평하게 될 날이 있을 것"이라며 뜻을 굽히지 않았고, 결국 옥황상제가 감동해 산을 옮기게 했다고 한다.

김 총장이 말하는 '산'은 국민을 의미한다는 게 검찰 주변의 해석이다.

지난해 노무현 전 대통령의 서거로 이어진 '박연차 게이트' 수사 이후 검찰에 대한 신뢰가 약해진 것을 두고, 묵묵히 맡은 소임을 해나가다 보면 언젠가는 국민들의 마음을 움직여 검찰수사의 진정성을 믿게 할 수 있다는 의지를 표현했다는 것이다.

그런 만큼 외압이나 일시적인 비난 여론에 흔들리지 말고 꿋꿋하게 본연의 수사활동을 해나가자는 뜻으로 검찰 간부들은 받아들이고 있다.

일각에선 악화일로로 치닫는 법원과의 갈등구도와 관련해 '장기전'으로 가겠다는 뜻이 담긴게 아니냐는 관측도 내놨지만 검찰은 확대해석을 경계했다.

김 총장은 이날 첫 전국 검사회의를 주재한 자리에서 "주변 국면이 어수선하지만 우리 검찰은 의연하고 당당하게 나갔으면 한다"고 말했다.
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