A shameful judgeIt turns out that a senior judge at the Suwon District Court has frequently posted utterly indecent messages on the Internet under a cloak of anonymity. The Supreme Court is investigating whether the man, surnamed Lee, violated the code of ethics among judges across the country. He has allegedly posted as many as 9,000 remarks on the Internet over the past seven years.
The judge attempted to fuel regional sentiment, a very sensitive issue in Korea, based on his political bias. He used four different IDs and nicknames to express his personal views on a myriad of issues involving the court, prosecution and politics, including cases he himself dealt with. The judge even ridiculed former President Roh Moo-hyun as “the king of jumping to death,” not to mention calling participants in candlelit protests against the government “people who must be mercilessly killed with axes.”
That’s not all. He went so far as to make biting remarks about those who come from Jeolla and posted messages in favor of the terrible torture used by past military governments. His identity was disclosed in a quarrel over the issue of “rough words on cyberspace” with a netizen, who reported him to a news outlet after affirming the real identity of the judge through his own investigations.
Some in the judiciary branch say the judge’s freedom of expression should be protected as he posted messages anonymously. To put it differently, they argue that criticizing the messages he wrote as a plain citizen, not a judge, could constitute a repressive and dictatorial approach.
However, the Supreme Court believes that the act of posting coarse messages on the Internet under a mask of anonymity is extremely inappropriate given Lee’s status as a senior judge. The ethics code that applies to all judges in Korea demands they keep the honor and prestige required of them. They are also prohibited from doing things that lead to any suspicion of their ability to be fair and act with integrity. They are also banned from engaging in discriminatory actions based on regional or academic connections.
The highest court has recently announced that it will exclude a problematic judge from criminal as well as civil cases after he was found to have taken bribes from a loan shark in Myeong-dong, central Seoul. Judge Lee must step down from his job as his behavior could stir up controversy over whether his judgment in trials is fair. The Supreme Court must thoroughly investigate his past and lay bare all of his misconducts to bring him to justice.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 13, Page 30