Elite judges’ clique to open its rolls

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Elite judges’ clique to open its rolls

An exclusive judges’ group with a reputation for secrecy will publish its membership roster and loosen up its system of accepting new members in a move toward transparency, its chairman told the JoongAng Ilbo.

About 180 legal professionals, mostly judges and professors, belong to the Society for Research on Cases of Civil Law, which was established with 31 members in February 1977 at the initiative of Seoul National University law professor Kwack Yoon-chick. The society’s journal to be published this month will list the names of all its members - not for the first time, the society said. Membership rosters were also published in 1987 and 1998.

“We have never kept our activities secret, but we have decided to make some changes in order to clear up the misunderstanding about our organization,” chairman Yune Jin-su, a Seoul National University law professor, told the JoongAng Ilbo Wednesday in a phone interview. “We will also allow more newcomers to join.”

In addition, he said the society plans to change its system of selecting new members. Until now, new memberships were given only to people recommended by existing members; under the revised system, applicants will be openly evaluated.

The society has been criticized for being “closed” to others because of its membership system.

Until a few years ago, only Seoul National University graduates were allowed to join.

The society’s members wield great judicial power. Supreme Court Chief Justice Lee Yong-hoon and four more Supreme Court justices are members, as are two of the nine Constitutional Court justices as well as Board of Audit and Inspection chief Kim Hwang-sik.

“Four judges of the Ministry of Court Administration recently gave up their membership because they thought it was inappropriate to continue the activities while they were working on the administrative duties of the court,” one Supreme Court official said.

Since it was founded, the group has hosted 10 monthly seminars and a summer symposium almost every year. The only exception was a canceled seminar in October 1979, shortly after President Park Chung Hee was assassinated.

Supreme Court officials said they hope that other private groups inside the judiciary will follow suit and change their operations, and the Society for Research on Our Law, a controversial private research group of liberal judges, has also said it will publicize its members’ names.

Last month, the Supreme Court launched an internal survey into the role of private organizations - even sports groups - inside the judiciary, and whether any engage in unethical activities.

By Kwon Seok-chun, Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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