The chief justice must answer

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The chief justice must answer

LEE GA-YOUNG
The author is the head of the national team of the JoongAng Ilbo.

Not guilty, not guilty, not guilty and not guilty were the rulings for four judges on Feb. 13 and 14. They were the first rulings following indictments that accused the judges of abusing their judiciary administrative authority. The defendants were found not guilty in their first trial, on charges of divulging official secrets and malpractice.

As the prosecutors want to appeal, the proceedings will likely drag on for a while. But they recovered some honor with the first trial ruling, and will return to their duties as the Supreme Court directed.

The allegations of abusing judicial administrative authority left an irreversible stain on the entire courts. Before this case, an unprecedented arrest of a former chief justice was accompanied by more than 10 former and current senior judges being indicted. The so-called elite judges were summoned by the prosecutors as either witnesses or the accused.

The impact still lingers. The liberal judges, who first raised the allegations of the abuse of judiciary administrative authority, made it a public issue, called themselves victims, and left the court to pursue political careers. Whichever side they are on in the abuse of judicial administrative authority, it is undeniable that people’s perception towards the court is colder than ever.

On the series of acquittals at the first trials, some say that prosecutors’ indictments were unreasonable. Some criticize the court for siding with the judges. But it is too early to say which side is right, as the final decisions of the courts and trials of related people remain. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court and the current chief justice should be responsible for the mass indictments of the judges who were acquitted.

Before the prosecutors’ investigation, the judiciary had three probes of allegations of abusing judiciary administrative authority. In the three internal probes, the existence of the so-called blacklist was not discovered. The judiciary also concluded that related people could not be sued.

As voices to punish the “long-standing evils in the court” grew, Supreme Court Chief Justice Kim Myeong-soo said in June 2018 that they could not be sued. But he said the judiciary would cooperate with the prosecutors’ investigation. That means the head of the judiciary did not trust their own investigation, and practically requested an investigation on the judges.

But the latest rulings put Kim’s determination to shame. If the cases advance to the Supreme Court, Kim would participate as one of the chief justices, and would therefore be unlikely to comment on the recent decisions. Could he send a responsible message to the judges whose reputations have been destroyed? Now is the time for Kim to reply, not remain silent.
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