An attempt to buy time

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An attempt to buy time

The education superintendent of Seoul, who was
fined by a court for spreading false information
about his rival during his election campaign, decided
to take the conviction that could cost him his
job to the Constitutional Court. Cho Hee-yeon was
fined 5 million won ($4,640) by a Seoul court for
accusing conservative rival Koh Seung-duk of being
a permanent resident of the U.S. when he wasn’t
and not correcting his allegation.
If the Supreme Court upholds the lower court
ruling, Cho would lose his elected position because
an educational chief fined more than 1 million won
is disqualified. Cho called an emergency meeting
and claimed no such election clause exists in other
countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation
and Development. He announced he would
file a constitutional lawsuit because the law restricts
freedom of speech during election campaigns.
But his actions cannot do much to evoke sympathy
for several reasons. Cho lost a trial by jury,
which was held on his own request. The jury delivered
a unanimous guilty verdict. He should be taking
the normal procedures to appeal and wait for the
second ruling. To take the matter to the Constitutional
Court because of an unwanted result in the
first ruling only comes from a calculated intention
to buy time. A court procedure can only be delayed
if it overlaps with the Constitutional Court’s review
in the same case. In theory, the Constitutional Court
must deliver a sentence within 180 days of the case
being received.
But just 27 percent are reviewed on schedule.
Many are put off for more than two years. Considering
the precedent, there is little possibility that Cho
will win his case. The court already in 2009 has
ruled that the provision against spreading false rumors
during campaigns was constitutionally valid
in a case filed by former lawmaker Lee Mooyoung.
Cho’s predecessor Kwak No-hyun made a similarly
vain attempt. He took a bribery case to the
Constitutional court and managed to keep his position
for two years out of his four-year term. When
he took his case the Constitutional Court, he demanded
the Supreme Court to delay its final ruling.
Education administration is affected when the
head of education is involved in a lawsuit that could
cost his position. The longer it takes for the case to
be settled, the greater the confusion in education
policy. At the end of the day, students suffer. Cho
must not attempt to interrupt court procedures and
focus on education while a final decision on his fate
is delivered.
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