A protest over Justice Ministry changes

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A protest over Justice Ministry changes

After the bitter tug-of-war between the Ministry of Justice and newly minted lawyers over the ministry’s plan to hire law school students as prosecutors, lawyers who are currently working in the field said they will hold a rally from tomorrow to April 1 against the ministry’s decision.

Kim Byeong-cheol, a 36-year-old lawyer, said lawyers, most of whom are in their 30s, will hold a rally in front of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office in Seocho-dong, southern Seoul, to protest the ministry’s announcement last Wednesday that it will employ some law school students who pass the lawyer certification test as prosecutors. “Up until now, roughly 50 lawyers said they will participate in the rally, and more are calling us saying they will attend the rally,” Kim said. “The employment of prosecutors is closely connected to [redoing] the whole legal system.”

Kim said lawyers are worried that the Ministry of Justice will preferentially select law school students, some of whose fathers are high-ranking lawyers, as prosecutors.

In Korea, there currently are two ways to be a lawyer - passing the national bar exam and finishing a mandatory two years at the Judicial Research and Training Institute or attending a three-year law school and passing the lawyer certification test designed only for law school students.

But the law school system is a new one. The Roh Moo-hyun administration launched 25 law schools nationwide in 2008 in an effort to broaden the pool of lawyers. There have yet been no graduates from law schools; the first generation of law school students will take the first lawyer certification test in March 2012. The national bar exam will coexist with law school system until being abolished in 2017.

In a bid to boost the law school system and get talented students from law schools, the Justice Ministry said on Feb.18 that it is considering hiring some law school students as prosecutors based on the recommendation of law school presidents only, drawing harsh criticism from lawyers who passed the bar in 2010.

About 520 junior lawyers were absent at the Judicial Research and Training Institute Wednesday on their first day of training classes and 100 of them held a rally outside the institute, calling for withdrawal of the plan for hiring law school students.

In response to the opposition, the ministry said Wednesday afternoon that the plan for employing law school students has not been specifically decided yet, and it will hire students only who pass the lawyer certification test, not only based on recommendations from their schools.

But even after the announcement, the lawyers, still angry, released a statement Thursday that law school students can’t be prosecutors right after their graduation, even if they pass the lawyer certification test, because they don’t take the two years of training classes.

The lawyers warned that they won’t hesitate to act en masse against the ministry if it doesn’t revamp its plan.

But Kim Hyeong-ju, chairman of the Korean Law Students Association and a 43-year-old student at Jeju National University Law School, said that it is not fair for law school students to be blocked from being prosecutors.

“We guess the current lawyers, who studied to pass the national bar exam for a couple of years and took the mandatory two years of training classes afterward, will feel that law school students, who study in law schools for only three years, become a lawyer much easier than they did,” Kim said. “But it is not fair to oppose employing law school students for prosecutors.

“The current conflict between law school and senior lawyers will last just temporarily until the bar is abolished in 2017,” Kim added.


By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]


Related Korean Article[중앙일보]

변호사까지 시위 가세…‘로스쿨생 검사 임용’ 파문 확산

법무부의 로스쿨생 검사 우선 임용 방침에 대한 사법연수생들의 집단 반발이 현직 변호사들에게까지 확산됐다. 7일 오전 서울 서초동 대검찰청 앞에서 변호사 200 여 명이 현수막과 피켓 등을 들고 구호를 외치며 법무부안 반대 집회를 벌일 예정이다. 사법연수원 개원 사상 처음으로 연수생들이 입소식에 집단 불참한 데 이어 ‘변호사 시위대’까지 등장한 것이다. 시위대의 중심은 서울지방변호사회 소속 20~30대(연수원 30~40기) 청년 변호사들이다. 이들은 가요 ‘돌아와요 부산항에’를 개사해 ‘법무부안 폐지하여 공정사회 확립하자’라는 집회용 노래까지 만들었다. 집회를 주도한 김병철(36·연수원 39기) 변호사는 “나를 비롯해 시위 자체를 처음 해보는 사람도 많다”고 말했다. “대한변협 등 변호사 단체가 반대 성명을 발표해도 법무부에서 반응이 없어 어쩔 수 없이 시위라는 수단을 택했다”는 설명이다. 그는 “변호사들은 사법연수생과는 달리 로스쿨생 검사 임용과 직접 관련이 없어 ‘밥그릇 싸움’ 논란에서 벗어날 수 있다”며 “사법 개혁을 위해 나선 것”이라고 주장했다. 법무부 김영진 대변인은 변호사 시위와 관련해 “현재로서는 대응 방침이 없다”며 “사법연수원 입소식 거부 사태 때 법무부의 입장은 이미 밝혔다”고 말했다.

법무부는 로스쿨 문제를 둘러싼 집단 반발로 계속 곤욕을 치르고 있다. 지난해 말 로스쿨생들의 ‘자퇴서 시위’ 가 시발이었다. 지난해 12월 6일 법무부가 있는 정부과천청사 앞 대운동장에 전국 25개 로스쿨 학생 3000여 명이 몰려들었다. 다음 날 열리는 변호사시험관리위원회에서 변호사 시험 합격률을 50%로 결정할 것이라는 소식 때문이었다. 이들은 “합격률을 80% 이상으로 해 달라”며 자퇴서를 모아서 냈다. 이튿날 법무부는 로스쿨의 엄정한 학사 관리를 전제로 한 다음 2012년도 첫 시험에 한해 합격률을 75%로 한다는 방침을 발표했다.

사법연수원생들의 입소식 거부 사태가 있었던 지난 2일에도 법무부는 서둘러 “로스쿨생이 변호사 시험에 합격한 경우에만 검사로 임용할 것이며 각계각층의 의견을 수렴 중으로 확정된 방안은 없다”고 입장을 밝혔다. 이에 대해 42기 사법연수생 A씨(27·여)는 “우리가 입소식 거부를 하지 않았더라도 법무부가 그런 해명을 했겠느냐”고 말했다. ‘떼를 쓰면 통한다’는 인식을 예비 법조인들이 갖게 되면서 집단 반발을 감행한 것으로 볼 수 있다.

법무부의 늑장 대응이 단체 행동의 빌미가 됐다는 시각도 있다. 법무부의 검사 임용안은 41기생의 연수원 수료 10개월을 앞둔 지난달에야 나왔다. 당장 미래가 불확실해진 41기생의 반발은 예상 가능했다. 2013년도 이후 변호사시험 합격률은 아직도 정해지지 않았다. 한 중견 변호사는 “새로운 방침이 정해질 때마다 또 다른 집단 반발이 나올 것”이라고 우려했다.

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