Justice delayed is justice denied
The motion to approve the nomination of Park Sang-ok, former prosecutor and current president of the Korean Institute of Criminology, as a chief justice of the Supreme Court passed in the National Assembly yesterday. Only ruling Saenuri Party lawmakers cast votes at the plenary session.
Woo Yoon-keun, floor leader of the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, requested National Assembly speaker Chung Ui-hwa to postpone the motion Wednesday. Chung, however, was determined to put the motion to a vote at his discretion because the opposition was trying to sabotage the approval. As head of the legislative branch, Chung did not want to delay Park’s appointment as chief justice of the highest court any longer.
Due to the gridlock over Park, the Supreme Court has been running for 80 days with a vacant seat left by a retirement in February. As Park’s approval is being delayed, only three chief justices adjudicate in the second unit of the court.
As a result, the highest court’s judgments of a case involving Han Myeong-sook, a former prime minister and lawmaker of the opposition who allegedly received illegal political funds, and another involving Lee Jay-hyun, the chairman of CJ who was arrested for embezzlement and tax evasion charges, continue to be delayed. Han’s case has been pending in the Supreme Court for 20 months since she was sentenced to two years in prison at the appellate court in September 2013.
The case was controversial even before Park’s appointment as chief justice was held up, because a ruling of this kind usually only takes about 8 months to be decided. The ruling camp believes that the opposition continues to obstruct Park’s approval in order to put off the highest court’s final ruling as long as possible.
Former Prime Minister Han is under suspicion that she took an illegitimate donation amounting to more than 900 million won ($832,400) from the former CEO of a construction company while in office. The truth behind the secret deal is complicated, but not in legal terms. In other words, the Supreme Court should be able to come up with a decision soon.
Judicial circles often use the phrase “Justice delayed is justice denied” to underscore the significance of speedy legal proceedings. The opposition should not have tried to thwart Park’s appointment because it could not find his concrete flaws during confirmation hearings. The court also must do its best to complete trials fairly and quickly now that the vacant seat is filled.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 7, Page 34