Venue change approved for appeals trial of judge

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Venue change approved for appeals trial of judge

The Supreme Court yesterday accepted a request from prosecutors to change the venue for an appeals trial for suspended Judge Seon Jae-sung, 48, who was indicted in June for bribery, abuse of power and other wrongdoings.

After Seon was found not guilty by the Gwangju District Court, where the defendant was the senior judge, prosecutors appealed the ruling and requested the Supreme Court move the second trial from the Gwangju High Court to the Seoul High Court.

Prosecutors are seeking a three-year prison sentence and a fine of 158 million won ($140,500) for Seon.

Seon’s first trial was the first time in the nation’s judicial history that an appeals court judge stood trial, and prosecutors’ request for a venue change - instead of a request from the defendant - was also a first.

The allegations against Seon came to light early this year after the head of a South Jeolla-based waste management company that was under court receivership asked the Gwangju District Court for a probe into the company’s court-appointed receiver. The company head, surnamed Jeong, said he believed the court-appointed receiver was “unqualified.”

At the time, Seon was in charge of appointing receivers to companies undergoing bankruptcy proceedings.

Jeong also said that the court-appointed adviser gave about 50 million won to Seon’s close friend and lawyer, surnamed Gang, as a bribe to get the job, adding that he believed a portion of the money was given to Seon.

Moreover, an anonymous petition was sent to the Gwangju Prosecutors’ Office early this year alleging Seon’s improper involvement in a debt-collection lawsuit in September last year. According to prosecutors, Seon is suspected of violating the Attorneys-at-Law Act by demanding a court-appointed receiver to two bankrupt companies hire Gang as a legal consultant. As a result, Gang received 500 million won for winning the debt-collection lawsuit.

Seon is also suspected of making an illegal profit of 100 million won by investing 50 million won under his wife’s name in a backdoor-listed firm in August 2005 after receiving inside information from Gang, prosecutors said. A backdoor-listed firm is a company normally unqualified for a public listing that gets on an exchange via a reverse merger or takeover. Prosecutors said that the inside information was given to Seon as a “form of a bribe considering that, at the time of the investment, Seon was a primary judge of criminal and civil cases.”

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court’s Judiciary Disciplinary Committee said that Seon’s cronyism and questionable job assignments deserved discipline and ordered his suspension from the bench for five months as of Nov. 10.


By Yim Seung-hye [sharon@joongang.co.kr]

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