Open court to the public

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Open court to the public

A Supreme Court trial has been streamed online for the first time in Korea. The chief justice made the opening remark, “We go live with this particular case because it is a legal issue our entire society needs to deliberate.”

The rare insight into a courthouse, especially the hallowed Supreme Court, drew enormous interest from the public.

The case involved a Vietnamese mother who took her daughter back to her home country without the consent of her Korean husband, who is the father.

Upon watching the trial, some defended the accused, saying what she did can’t be regarded as abduction because a mother wouldn’t take her child as a hostage.

Others argued that the woman is guilty of stripping the child’s right to live with her father and in her birth country.

Opening the trial to the public can raise awareness of social issues as well as how the legal system functions by showing the justices of the highest court at work. The experiment by Chief Justice Yang Sung-tae, who emphasizes closer communication with the public, has so far been successful.

But we may have to wait longer to see more of these open trials. Broadcasting and filming is still prohibited in lower courts. Under the Supreme Court regulations on courtroom audiences and broadcasting, no cameras or taping are allowed in lower courts once a trial begins, regardless of judiciary consent.

The regulations clash with a higher law on court organization that allows broadcasting, videotaping and televising of courtroom proceedings if the presiding judge endorses it. But the practice is restricted in lower courts for fear of interfering with the privacy of victims, witnesses and defendants and the psychological effect of having cameras in court.

The court will have to reconsider whether a public courtroom should remain sealed to the public.

Most U.S. federal and state courts allow the broadcasting of trials. U.S. Supreme Court cases are all taped and released on the Web site www.oyez.org.

We need to change our attitude toward the camera ban in courtrooms. Greater access to courtrooms will raise public understanding of the legal system and reduce questions about the justice of rulings.

If privacy is the problem, prior consent from those in the courtroom and a guarantee of confidentiality about their identities may be the answer we are looking for.

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