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Probe into former Supreme Court officials deepens

The investigation into allegations that the Supreme Court acted under pressure from the Park Geun-hye administration continues, with the prosecution set to continue its questioning and demanding records from the courts.

According to reports, the prosecutors investigating the case plans to summon Cho Seok-je, the chief of the courts’ branch of the civil servants’ labor union, on Monday.

The union had filed a criminal complaint against Yang Sung-tae, former head of the Supreme Court, and other high-ranking officials over alleged abuse of power. 

The Supreme Court in Seoul. Yonhap
The Supreme Court in Seoul. Yonhap

In addition, it is expected that the courts will reach a decision on whether to hand over records of its internal investigation into the allegation to the prosecution some time this week.

The prosecution had made the request for the records earlier last week, but the courts have yet to respond.

Allegations against the top court include surveilling judges deemed critical of the Park Geun-hye administration, and influencing cases under pressure from the presidential office of the previous administration.

Yang is alleged to have sought to use politically sensitive trials as bargaining chips in its dealings with the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae over organizational changes.

An internal probe showed that the National Court Administration under the top court wrote a report in March 2015 on how to use high-profile cases in persuading senior presidential aides to then-President Park Geun-hye into supporting Yang‘s bid to establish a court of appeals.

Since the scandal broke out, Supreme Court chief Kim Meong-soo has said that he will actively cooperate with a prosecution probe into allegations that the top court under his predecessor used trials as bargaining chips in its dealings with the presidential office.

Kim said that he will closely cooperate with prosecutors’ investigation into the case, instead of referring Yang and others directly to the prosecution.

“Though we will not file complaints with the prosecution, we will provide the necessary data secured by an internal probe team, including classified documents, in due course (to prosecutors) for the probe,” Kim said on June 15.

Yang has denied the accusations, arguing that there was no unfair interference in trials and that he never used them for bargaining. He also denied any disadvantage was meted out to judges who opposed his proposal to set up a court of appeals.

The court administration‘s officials are suspected of having communicated frequently with Park’s aides and influential politicians over cases such as those involving a liberal opposition lawmaker, a former spy chief and the progressive teachers‘ union.

Kim said he plans to take punitive action against 13 judges involved in the power abuse scandal.

By Choi He-suk and news reports (