Our judges on trial

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Our judges on trial

Park Byoung-dae, a former justice of the Supreme Court, has gone through an investigation by the prosecution. It is unprecedented in the history of Korea’s bench that a former justice stood on the photo line at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office. Under a shower of camera flashes, he expressed regrets about what he allegedly did in the highest court. We are depressed at watching a top judge questioned by prosecutors in spite of his sublime obligation to serve as the last bastion of our society’s moral and ethical standards.

The former justice spent a third of his 30-year career as a judge in the National Court Administration (NCA), the administrative arm of the judiciary. Park served as head of the office when the judiciary scandal — which involves a number of power abuses by the administrative office, including drawing up a list of liberal judges and pressuring judges to deliver rulings that would be approved by the conservative Park Geun-hye administration — took place.

The prosecution’s investigation of Park was expected, as seen in the case of the deputy head of the administrative office, Lim Jong-hun, who is expected to be indicted on charges of power abuse. A judgment on Park’s charges will eventually be determined by the court.

When Park was being questioned, 114 judges from courts across the country held an emergency meeting to figure out how to deal with the issue. The meeting, mostly led by junior judges, passed a resolution to impeach incumbent judges suspected of being involved in the NCA’s influence peddling. If more than one third of lawmakers in the National Assembly consent to the resolution, a motion to impeach those suspicious judges will be adopted and, if a majority of legislators approve it, the motion passes.

The development is troubling as the legislature may determine the fate of judges before any judicial judgment is reached. If the impeachment motion is endorsed by the Assembly, the case goes to the Constitutional Court. If trials continue in both the criminal courts and Constitutional Court at the same time, it could bewilder the public.

The prosecution plans to indict all judges under suspicion within this year after wrapping up their investigations. The court must tell the truth behind such shameful deals through neutral trials. No one should harness the scandal for impure intentions. As long as the bench follows a fair and objective procedure toward the accused, it can address the unparalleled judicial crisis in Korea.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 20, Page 30
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