The Korea Herald

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First trial of former senior judge held in massive judicial power abuse scandal

By Jo He-rim

Published : Dec. 10, 2018 - 16:39

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The trial of Lim Jong-hun began Monday, marking the first trial in a massive judicial power abuse case involving former top court officials.

At the Seoul Central District Court, the first trial was held against Lim, the former deputy head of the National Court Administration, who was indicted Nov. 14 for power abuse, dereliction of duty and obstruction of justice, among other charges. Lim was not present in the trial, as it was a preparatory trial.

Lim Jong-hun (Yonhap) Lim Jong-hun (Yonhap)

He is suspected of aiding former Supreme Court Chief Justice Yang Sung-tae in using politically sensitive trials as bargaining chips to win favor from the Park Geun-hye administration. Lim worked for the NCA from 2012 to 2017.

The judge panel for Lim’s case was newly established last month with nine judges who had never held positions at the NCA, for a fair trial.

Lim has been denying involvement, saying some of the alleged misdeeds were conducted by his subordinates. Considering his stance, it is likely that the court will summon many judges to the court to provide testimony.

According to investigators, Lim had abused his power to interfere in court trials, including delaying compensation suits filed by elderly Korean victims of forced labor against Japanese companies.

In October 2013, Lim visited Joo Cheol-gi, then-presidential secretary for foreign affairs under former President Park Geun-hye, to discuss the outcome of the case and to request for more judges to be dispatched overseas.

Lim is also suspected of having influenced another case, which led to the ruling that the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union was an illegal union, and of leading secret investigations of judges deemed critical of Yang’s office.

Prosecutors also suspect Lim of creating a 273-page report in November 2016 analyzing whether the ousted former president had violated laws against the abuse of power. Park was still in office and facing impeachment at that time.

Closing in on Yang, prosecutors also summoned former Supreme Court Justices Park Byong-dae and Ko Young-han and requested for arrest warrants last month. But the court rejected the request, citing a lack of evidence. The prosecution is expected to request for the writs again.

Both of the former top court justices allegedly abused their authority while serving as NCA chiefs under Yang’s office. Based on the prosecutorial investigation, the court’s administrative body appears to have played a crucial role in carrying out Yang’s orders. The NCA manages the appointment of personnel and budget.

As the detention period is six month after indictment, the pronouncement of sentencing on Lim’s case is expected in around May. But the court can extend the detention period for another six months.

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