Court begins investigation into actions of judge

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Court begins investigation into actions of judge

Ethic inspectors from the National Court Administration under the Supreme Court launched an investigation yesterday into Seon Jae-sung, a senior judge at the Gwangju District Court, based on allegations that he gave a corporate advisory position to an unqualified man and received payment for the appointment, as well as charges of nepotism and cronyism.

Seon, 48, in one of his duties as a judge, assigned a corporate adviser to a bankrupt company that requested judicial management from the court.

The Gwangju District Court said on Saturday that an owner of a waste management firm from Naju, South Jeolla, that had gone bankrupt recently filed an appeal to the court asking for an investigation into the corporate adviser sent by the court.

The owner, surnamed Jeong, said that the adviser, surnamed Choe, “did not seem qualified as an adviser” and asked the court to “investigate whether there had been any illegal acts committed in placing Choe in the position.”

Jeong said that Choe had given about 52 million won ($46,600) to a lawyer who attended the same high school and university as Seon did. Jeong believes Seon would have received part of 52 million won in exchange for using his power to appoint Choe for the job.

Seon said, however, “I have never met with the lawyer regarding this matter, and don’t know anything about the fact that the lawyer received the 52 million won.”

The lawyer, surnamed Gang, quit his job as an auditor for three companies in February after noticing that suspicion of him was increasing.

The court administration says Gang was also allegedly hired as an auditor because of Seon’s influence, but Gang denied it.

“I was appointed as the auditor for the companies, not through a connection with Seon, but at the recommendation of former executives of the companies,” Gang said.

Also according to the court administration, Seon allegedly appointed his elder brother as an auditor of a corporation under court receivership in January and recommended that a junior judge appoint Seon’s former driver for a position as a corporate adviser of a company under judicial management in September 2010.

The auditors from the court administration said they will focus on figuring out why Seon hired his brother as an auditor and then fired him afterward, whether other high school friends of Seon were also involved in additional job-granting scandals and what the status is of bankrupt companies where Seon had sent his people as an adviser.

On Friday, Park Ill-hwan, the minister of the court administration, criticized Seon at a meeting with senior judges, saying, “Seon’s case is diminishing the public’s trust in legal officials. We will take proper steps after the results of the investigation are released.”

Legal observers have pointed out that Seon hasn’t made an official apology for the growing suspicions about him and has just kept rationalizing his actions, leading to harsh criticism from court officials.

According to the Gwangju District Court, the court administration yesterday sent inspectors to the court to investigate Seon and those involved in the case and no one except inspectors and suspects were admitted.

The court administration said it will take punitive measures against Seon and other suspects if the allegations turn out to be true.


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

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