NATIONAL

Prosecutors seek warrants for former top court justices, first in Korean history

By Jo He-rim
  • Published : Dec 3, 2018 - 11:35
  • Updated : Dec 3, 2018 - 22:30
The prosecution on Monday filed for arrest warrants for former top court justices over their suspected involvement in a massive judiciary power abuse case. It is the first time in Korean history that arrest warrants have been requested for former Supreme Court justices.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office said it submitted the request early Monday for former Supreme Court Justices Park Byong-dae and Ko Young-han over their alleged abuse of power. They are suspected of colluding with former Supreme Court Chief Justice Yang Sung-tae to interfere in politically sensitive trials in an effort to win favor from former President Park Geun-hye.

This photo filed Nov. 13, 2018 shows former Supreme Court Justices Park Byong-dae (left) and Ko Young-han. (Yonhap)

After holding several questioning sessions with the two justices, prosecutors said it was “inevitable” to request for the arrest warrants, as they continue to deny the allegations and have given testimonies that are different from their subordinates.

The court’s decision is likely to be made Wednesday.

“This case is not the offense of an individual. It is an organized crime ordered and managed in the hierarchical structure (of the judiciary),” the prosecutors said.

“The independence of a trial and the political independence of the judiciary are constitutional values that cannot be traded with anything. Each abuse of power that occurred violated the values.”

The prosecution indicted former deputy head of the National Court Administration Lim Jong-hun last month for abuse of power and obstruction of justice, among others, narrowing down its investigation to high-ranking figures.

Park, who served as the NCA chief from 2014 to 2016, is suspected of abusing his power to influence several trials, such as a compensation suit of Korean forced labor victims against Japanese companies, and a case on the status of a progressive teachers union.

Ko took the NCA chief position after Park, serving until 2017. Among the alleged irregularities are his involvement in influencing a trial on the dissolution of a minor progressive party, and leaking trial information for other cases.

The two justices are also accused of making a secret list of judges deemed critical of Yang’s court leadership.

The prosecution also revealed Monday that former top court chief Yang directly contacted the law firm Kim & Chang, which legally represented the Japanese companies in the compensation suit filed by Korean forced labor victims. Yang and his subordinates allegedly delayed the ruling of the case for five years, in an effort to support former President Park Geun-hye in her diplomatic efforts with Japan.

The writ for Park contains 158 pages, describing charges including the abuse of power, leaking confidential information and dereliction of duty, investigators said. Ko’s writ is 108 pages long, with similar charges.

With prosecutors speeding up their investigation, they are expected to summon Yang for questioning this month.

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)