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School bullying case frustrated by lawyer's dishonesty: bereaved familyBy Lim Jae-seong
Published : April 6, 2023 - 18:16
A legal fight that stretched over six years seeking damages for school bullying was thwarted as the plaintiff’s lawyer failed to attend three hearings, the victim’s bereaved family said Wednesday.
The plaintiff, Lee Gi-cheol, said the lawsuit seeking damages from education officials, authorities and suspected bullies’ parents ended unfavorably on Nov. 24 due to her lawyer Kwon Kyeong-ae’s repeated absences, via her Facebook account.
The South Korean Civil Procedure Act stipulates that a case is withdrawn when both parties fail to appear on the date for pleading, which Kwon missed on Sept. 22, Oct. 13 and Nov. 10, 2022.
Lee’s daughter Park Ju-won took her own life in 2015 when she was 16 years old after suffering persistent school bullying that began when she was a middle school student in Gangnam, Seoul. The bullying continued even after she moved to another school and went to high school.
Lee filed a civil lawsuit in 2016 demanding damages from 34 defendants. The court ruled for one of them to compensate 500 million won ($380,000) to Lee in February 2022.
The latest hearings were for an appellate trial at the Seoul High Court. As the court withdrew Lee’s claim, Lee is bound to pay court costs as well as cede the right to receive the damages.
“The cost is not affordable to me, working as a cleaner,” Lee said.
In late March, the plaintiff was informed of her loss in the trial, months later than the two-week expiry period to bring the case to the Supreme Court.
Lee said in her Facebook post that Kwon had not communicated clearly about proceedings until March.
She said that Kwon, 58, told her she was sick and misrecognized the pleading date. But the lawyer had been well enough to vigorously criticize the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea leader Lee Jae-myung on her social media accounts at the time.
Kwon has since apparently disappeared online, deleting her social media accounts without remarking on the case.
The Korean Bar Association on Thursday announced that it is preparing an investigation of the attorney, offering condolences to the bereaved family.
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