Clearing suspicions over ex-Justice KwonThe National Conference of Judges which demanded Supreme Court Chief Justice Kim Myeong-su publicly explain his guidelines on the appointments of judges began to gather opinions on former Justice Kwon Soon-il, too. Upon retiring from the Supreme Court bench, Kwon worked as an adviser to Hwacheon Daeyu, the asset management company at the center of the Daejang-dong development scandal. He is also accused of bias in delivering a favorable ruling in the appeals trial of former Geyonggi Governor Lee Jae-myung who later became the presidential candidate of the ruling Democratic Party (DP).
If the issue is formally discussed by the council of judge representatives at every level, the top court could be swept up in more turmoil. During the last conference on April 11, the judges questioned Chief Justice Kim’s appointment guidelines and actions. Kim has been repeatedly accused of favoring judges of progressive nature.
The council, which has become permanent after Kim was inaugurated, was often labeled loyal to the top court chief. If such a friendly group questions court administration, confidence in the judiciary must be collapsing. Kim has caused controversy by allowing his son’s family to use his official residence for free. Justice Noh Jeong-hee who was appointed as head of the National Election Commission refused to resign despite poor management of early voting in the March 9 presidential election.
Kwon makes the worst case. He pocketed 15 million won ($12,245) monthly advisory fees from Hwacheon Daeyu. The judge who had cleared Lee’s charges in his appeals trial joined a company mentioned in the second ruling. That is baffling. Kwon was found to have met with Hwacheon Daeyu’s major shareholder Kim Man-bae eight times before and after the Supreme Court ruling.
But prosecutorial investigation on Kwon was stalled, and the court rejected a search warrant on him. The judiciary did not make a minimum effort. The top court chose to turn a blind eye on the misdeeds of the former justice. Although Kwon cannot be prosecuted since he has left the public office, the issue shaking the confidence in the bench must not be neglected.
Chief Justice Kim must mobilize the internal ethics inspection team of the Supreme Court to investigate Kwon’s trajectory around retirement in order to restore the confidence in the judiciary. Upon completing his first year in office, Kim said judges must be aware that they were afflicting the people if they betray public trust. He must look back on his own behavior.