Top court resists changes by GNP
Korea’s Supreme Court issued a public statement attacking the Grand National Party’s effort to increase the number of Supreme Court judges and enact other changes. This is the first time that the Supreme Court has released a public statement opposing a proposal by the ruling party.
“It is only proper for the Supreme Court to be responsible for and decide on the terms of judicial reform,” the statement read. “Even when the National Assembly or the executive branch of the government discusses judicial reform, they have to respect the constitutional freedom of the judicial court.”
On Wednesday, the GNP’s judiciary reform committee announced that it had finalized 10 measures to “improve” the judiciary system. The proposal seeks to add 10 judges to the current 14 over the course of a decade. The GNP also proposed stricter eligibility requirements for Supreme Court candidates, requiring new judges to be at least 45 years old with 20 years or more of experience in the legal profession. Currently, new nominees have to be at least 40 years old with at least 15 years of legal experience.
Park Ill-hwan, head administrative official at the Supreme Court, said that “the court has never come across such an inappropriate circumstance, in which a change in the judiciary system is pushed forth without the consent of the judicial branch.” The Supreme Court said the statement had been approved by the Supreme Court Chief Justice Lee Yong-hoon.
In response, GNP floor leader Ahn Sang-soo said, “In the National Assembly’s lawmaking process, the court has the right to express its opinion and the opinion will be noted.”
The proposal follows recent friction between the GNP and the court on several politically sensitive rulings. Earlier this year, the Seoul Central District Court acquitted five staff members of Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation on libel charges stemming from the broadcast of a “PD Diary” episode on the safety of American beef.
Another cause of friction between the court and the ruling party involved the acquittal of opposition lawmaker Kang Ki-kab by the Seoul Southern District Court.
Kang, head of the Democratic Labor Party, was charged with obstructing official parliamentary duties after a violent outburst at the National Assembly.
By Cho Jae-eun, Kwon Suk-chun [firstname.lastname@example.org]