Why judges should watch volleyball

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Why judges should watch volleyball


King Solomon was not the only one to produce a judgment to determine the true mother of a disputed child. A similar story can be found in Korean history with Son Byeon, a minister from the Goryeo period. When he was the governor of Gyeongsang, he presided over a dispute between a brother and a sister. When the parents passed away, they passed on the entire fortune to the older sister. The youngest son was left with a black hat, a set of black clothing, a pair of shoes and an empty note. When he grew up, he sued his sister to claim his share of the estate.

Son Byeon studied the case and produced a wise decision: “The parents must have thought that the daughter would be the only one left to care for the young son, and they were worried that had they divided their assets equally, the sister would not have enough funds to raise the brother. So they figured that the son would someday grow up and dress properly, prepare a suit and ask for judgment.” Upon hearing the decision, the brother and the sister embraced each other and cried, and Son Byeon ruled that they would have an equal share of the fortune from their parents.

The episode is recorded in Lee Jae-hyun’s “Yeokongpaeseol,” which remains as a valuable historic document about the inheritance system of the Goryeo Dynasty. If the parents hadn’t had the confidence that the judicial authority would produce a righteous decision, they wouldn’t have taken such a risk.

The justice system cannot earn such trust with only a few right decisions. It is a product of accumulation of countless rulings that could almost be considered trivial. That’s why I agree with what Justice Lee Han-joo of the Seoul High Court said. “The freedom of speech for an individual judge should be respected, but we should also consider how what each judge says affects the overall honor and trust of the judiciary.”

At the final round of the World League of Volleyball in 2006, a French player spiked the ball, which was blocked by a Brazilian before landing outside the court. But the referee declared a score by Brazil. The spectators were upset, but the French attacker admitted that the ball had hit him before landing. The spectators gave applause as a sign of trust for the referee. Referee Kim Geon-tae is known for his fair decisions. The French team could have doubted his ruling, but the players trusted his fairness. The judges in Korea may want to closely examine how he has earned such trust.

*The writer is a culture and sports news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Lee Hoon-beom
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