[Newsmaker] Judiciary split on prosecutorial probe of own power abuse scandal

By Jo He-rim
  • Published : Jun 6, 2018 - 15:35
  • Updated : Jun 6, 2018 - 17:34

The judiciary is divided over whether the prosecution should investigate it after Supreme Court Chief Justice Kim Myeong-su expressed the firm determination to investigate his predecessor‘s alleged abuse of power and consorting with the government on sensitive cases.

While those supporting Kim’s drive believe it is important to conduct a thorough prosecutorial investigation of the alleged irregularities committed by those working under former Supreme Court Chief Justice Yang Sung-tae, opponents say such a probe would encroach on the independence of the judiciary.

Supreme Court (Yonhap)

On May 25, an investigation panel revealed that the judiciary under Yang had used politically sensitive trials to make a deal with the presidential office in return for support to establish a new appellate court. The panel said over 400 reports written at the time had been identified as evidence.

After the revelation, Supreme Court Chief Justice Kim issued an apology and said he would request prosecutorial investigations regarding the scandal. But Yang denied all charges, saying such actions are “unimaginable,” as he upheld the principle of independent trials as the “golden rule” in his 45 years as a judge.

Seven of the 13 Supreme Court justices, excluding Supreme Court Justice Ahn Chul-sang, head of the National Court Administration who led the panel investigation, appear to be against Kim, according to a news report Wednesday.

According to the Korea Economic Daily, some top court judges have expressed discontent over Kim’s attempt at an additional investigation, citing that the latest investigation panel may have interpreted the reports “too broadly.” Some Supreme Court Justices are reported to have expressed their wishes to resign, according to the news outlet.

Chief justices of Seoul High Court have also expressed concerns against running a prosecutorial investigation into the court after a meeting that ended with a vote.

“We agree as members of the judiciary that the abuse of the legal power (by past authority) has damaged the credibility of the court and disappointed the public. And we also believe that measures are needed to mend the conflict,” the statement from the high court read. “But if such figures as the chief justice and NCA head file a suit or request a probe, we are deeply concerned that (the fact of their suits or request for a probe) would intrude on a fair litigation process.”

The chief members of the Seoul Central District Court held three meetings Monday and Tuesday, but failed to reach a conclusion, as opinions were sharply divided over an internal investigation.

But judges from some regional district courts made strong calls for a thorough probe.

Associate judges from Busan District Court demanded the top court take “all viable methods,” including an internal probe to find those responsible for the power abuse scandal and their punishment.

Seoul Southern District Court also demanded firm actions to punish those involved in illegal activities, so that such an abuse of legal authority does not occur again.

By Jo He-rim (