The power of evidence
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
The clashing sound of two 110-centimeter-long swords was followed by the cheer of the fencer in the hall. But the cheers were brief as the referee ruled that the opponent earned a point. Unwilling to accept the decision, the fencer drew a rectangle with his hands towards the referee — a request to check the video for possible misjudgment. As the game is determined within 0.03 seconds, it was worth checking the footage in case there was a split second the referee didn’t notice.
It is not just in fencing. It was not hard to find athletes and coaches drawing rectangles with hands in the broadcasting of the Tokyo Olympics. Requests were made in baseball, soccer, volleyball, badminton, taekwondo and judo. Players and coaches who raised a doubt on a referee’s decision accepted the final decision upon video analysis. Video replay has become a trend in international sports as a mechanism to supplement the limitation of human referees who had constantly been engaged in possible errors in judgment.
As I watched the video analysis, the strange reality in Korea of trials which neither the liberals nor the conservatives accept even after the Supreme Court ruling was made. What would be the next best in trials if those involved find it hard to accept? It may be the embodiment of a “trial based on evidence as if filed on video.”
For instance, the case of former South Gyeongsang Governor Kim Kyoung-soo can be a touchstone, as he was recently sentenced to two years in jail by the Supreme Court for manipulating the public opinion with online comments in 2017. Throughout the three trials, he claimed he was exploited by Kim Dong-won, better known as his online alias Druking. His claims starkly contrast with the digital forensic results by independent counsel Heo Ik-beom and the facts acknowledged by the Supreme Court. The court found that he had contacted Druking first more than 30 times and sent links of articles for Druking to work on. It was also recognized as a fact that Kim had allowed comment manipulation by attending the King Crab demonstration.
Shortly after the Supreme Court ruling, Gov. Kim, a close ally of President Moon Jae-in, said, “Truth will return to its place no matter how far you throw it.” Subjective truth may be in each person’s mind. But there is only one objective truth, and it is in the evidence. The Blue House and ruling Democratic Party (DP) officials shook their heads. They were convinced that a good Kyoung-soo would never do that.
The myth of good people not committing crimes was broken long ago, when Hanna Arendt, a German-born American political scientist, attended the Nazi war crime trials in Jerusalem in 1961 and proposed the concept of “the banality of evil.” She found that Adolf Eichmann, who was responsible for sending millions of Jews to concentration camps, was not some demonic figure but an “ordinary bureaucrat.” Eichmann defended his actions as “guilty before the God but not before the law.” He pleaded not guilty for following the government order. He was sentenced to death by hanging.
Eichmann’s sophistry reminds me of the statement by Han Myeong-sook, former prime minister and “godmother of the pro-Roh Moo-hyun faction,” issued shortly after the Supreme Court sentenced her to two years in prison for accepting money from a slush fund. “I am innocent in the court of history and conscience,” she said. The Supreme Court found her guilty because the material evidence was clear, as a portion of the bribe was used as a lease deposit for a sibling. Justice Minister Park Beom-gye eagerly worked on a reinvestigation of the case to reinstate her honor, but gave up midway due to the barrier of facts.
How about Dongyang University Professor Chung Kyung-sim, the wife of former Justice Minister Cho Kuk? In the appeals trial, she was found guilty of all seven charges of fabricating documents for her daughter’s college admissions. It means that her criminality was specifically proven.
None of the judges in the courts in the Han Myeong-sook, Kim Kyoung-soo and Chung Kyung-sim’s cases would have ruled differently before clear evidence. That’s the power of evidence.