Ruling against the tide

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Ruling against the tide

A Seoul district court cleared Jin Kyung-joon, former senior prosecutor, from the charge of taking bribes worth 12.6 billion won ($10.7 million) in the form of free shares in game company Nexon and profits from the stock gains. The judge gave different reasoning from a similar bribery case in 2014 against former senior judge Kim Kwang-joon by arguing that bribery does not stand when money-taking does not directly affect the judiciary line of work.

The charges against the former judge accused of receiving gifts and entertainment allowances worth 1 billion won were upheld in all three courts that maintained that regardless of the jurisdictions of his service, he could have exercised influence through his long years of prosecution service and connections with prosecutors and investigators across the nation. The former judge is currently serving seven years in prison. The Supreme Court applies “comprehensive” bribery charges to civil servants, lawmakers, and the president due to the scale of their responsibilities.

Yet the Seoul District Court concluded that there was no benefit in the transaction of 425 million won worth of shares Jin received from Nexon CEO and founder Kim Jung-ju as the two had been friends before they became a prosecutor and businessman. Jin was an investigator at the Justice Ministry’s internal investigating team then. The ruling came despite Jin being at an office overseeing prosecutors.

From the court interpretation, Kim was simply generous to give out shares worth 425 billion won unconditionally to his friend and the 12.6 billion won his friend earned from holding his shares was a handsome extra. The rich tycoon also should not be found guilty of gambling away 1 million won overseas with his own money. The ruling has utterly shattered public faith in the court.

Jin gained his stock fortune before the anti-graft Kim Young-ran law took force. But the ruling could question the efficacy in the anti-corruption law. It also should affect the similar bribery case the independent counsel is building against President Park Geun-hye, who is accused of forcing large conglomerates to make donations. We hope the higher court will make a wiser judgment.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 15, Page 34
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