To dishonorable judges

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To dishonorable judges

Lee Sang-eon

The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
I’ve written three petitions to the court. The first was requested, and the other two were voluntary. I always began with “Your honor.” That’s what the lawyer of the person who asked for a petition taught me. That was how all the “petition templates” I found online began. I attended many trials for my job as a reporter, but unlike television dramas, no lawyer actually called the judge “Your honor.” But I still followed the format hoping the petition to work.
In fact, I don’t find you honorable. All I know about you is your name and the department. Just because you passed the judicial examination and were appointed a judge with good grades in the Judicial Research and Training Institute. So, “Your honor” was an expression of hoping for good judgment and a just mind. Also, it should be considered an expression of respect for doing the valuable and difficult work to defend the order of the community.
I asked a British lawyer why the judges wear wigs in courts. (I found the judges in old-fashioned wigs ridiculous). I was told that in 17th-century England, Royalists and Parliamentarians were in conflict. Royalists mostly had long hair while Parliamentarians followed the new trend of short hair. So, their affiliation could be assumed based on the hair. Wigs were worn to hide the hairstyle. In other words, the English judges wore the wig to prevent their political tendencies from being presumed for a fair trial. I think it is the duty of the judge to be seen impartial.
Dress of Korean judges seems to play a similar role. They wear black robes and a silver tie with a Rose of Sharon print, projecting an image that the trial will be based on laws and principles only regardless of the judges’ personal tendency or character. All judges wearing the same outfit seems to be a promise of the court that the decision would not vary no matter which judge is assigned.
Chief Justice Kim Myeong-su reports to work at his office in the Supreme Court in Seoul last Monday. [NEWS1]

Chief Justice Kim Myeong-su reports to work at his office in the Supreme Court in Seoul last Monday. [NEWS1]

Your honor, unfortunately, your thoughts to decide based on political condition and personal interest, not laws and principles, have been revealed. Your wig has been removed. On Judge Lim Seong-geun’s request to allow resignation, you said, “What will the National Assembly say if I accept your resignation when lawmakers are making all the fuss over your impeachment by the National Assembly?” On a matter that should be handled according to the related rules, you said, “Political circumstances should be considered.” I understand that all civil servants, including judges, are not allowed to resign when a disciplinary action is in progress.
But Lim has already been reprimanded. Chief Justice Kim Myeong-su arbitrarily and unlawfully took away freedom of a person. It is an action that cannot be understood for even for head of a public organization, if not the head of the judiciary.
Chief Justice Kim said he had never mentioned the word “impeachment” by the legislature to Judge Lim. There is no way of knowing if it’s a lie or mistake. Only you would know. When your explanation turned out untrue, you stood before cameras as you left the office and said, “I apologize to the people who are disappointed.” That was all. You did not say how you would amend your yardstick of judgment when it was revealed to be bent and broken.
I cannot and won’t call the chief justice “Your honor” from now on. To me, you are a political official in a judge’s robe, busy reading political circumstances. I don’t expect you to be fair. There is no field for a referee who breaks rules and made a biased confession. You are no longer a referee.
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