Yang must be dealt with carefullyHundreds of people swarmed the front gate of the Supreme Court around 9 a.m. Friday to get a glimpse of former Chief Justice Yang Sung-tae before he made his first appearance at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office. Opposing rallies cries called for the arrest of Yang and also criticized progressive judges for taking down their former boss. These sounds were mixed with loudspeakers from police and sounds of broadcasting helicopters in the skies, causing clamorous mayhem in the otherwise quiet, posh neighborhood in southern Seoul.
“This is due to my shortcomings in virtue. I should take all the responsibility,” Yang said. His voice was hardly audible against the racket. A loudspeaker coming out of the court union inside the Supreme Court lashed out at Yang to stop disgracing the court. Conservative groups ratcheted up their cries of support for the former chief justice. Judges inside their offices watching TV also shook their heads after they saw the top judge make a statement of apology in front of the Supreme Court.
The prosecution’s questioning of Yang must not turn into an ideological contest. He is being summoned for various allegations about abusing his power as he served as chief justice from 2011 to 2017. One of the most controversial cases involves a civilian lawsuit brought by Korean forced laborers during Japanese colonial rule. The chief justice is accused of delaying the decision at the request of the Blue House. The prosecution is sure to pin down Yang after testimonies are made and documents revealed. Yang denies any involvement. He repeated that the case should be investigated in a balanced and fair light.
A former chief justice should neither receive preferential treatment nor a disadvantage. The principle that everyone is equal before the law should apply to Yang as well. The prosecution must leave out any political factors as it unveils the truth. Instead of portraying himself as a political scapegoat, Yang must also address the questions with honesty and sincerity.
The investigation could be lengthy as he must be questioned on over 40 charges. The prosecution should not call in Yang for no reason just to show its muscle. The prosecution also should be prudent about requesting physical detention. The case of the top judge abusing his power must be carried out strictly based on criminal litigation procedures. At the same time, Korea’s top court must also restore its dignity and justice to win back the public’s trust.
JoongAng Sunday, Jan. 12, Page 30