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Sincerity of chief justice nominee over death sentence

Posted June. 08, 2017 07:13,   

Updated June. 08, 2017 07:19


Constitutional Court Chief-nominee Kim Yi-su said during his confirmation hearing at the National Assembly on Wednesday that he submitted a minority report opposing the 2014 disbandment of the Unified Progressive Party because the minor opposition party's platform per se was not in violation of Korea's "democratic basic order." In a country with a political party disbandment system, no party aiming to destroy the basic order would have such a platform written in black and white. According to his logic, even a communist party cannot be disbanded if it has a plausible platform mentioning "progressive democracy." Minority views should be respected in a democracy, but it does not mean that anti-constitutional minority opinions that effectively nullifies the party disbandment system should also be respected.

Kim was appointed as a Constitutional Court justice by the then opposition United Democratic Party (UDP). Among the top court's 19 major rulings on which the UDP presented its position during his term as justice, his rulings on all of the cases matched the party's position. Although Kim denied he followed the UDP's position, the objective results make us question whether he will be able to maintain political neutrality as Chief Justice.

He also apologized for giving a death penalty to a citizen who participated in an armed pro-democracy protest in Gwangju in 1980. Asked why he did not offer an apology during his 2012 confirmation hearing as a Constitutional Court justice nominee, Kim said that he attended the hearing without remembering what ruling he made a long time ago. Kim sentenced the citizen to death for killing four police officers. After serving 32 months in prison, the citizen was released, being exempt from his death sentence. Although he claimed that the death sentence had since been a "big burden" on him, one cannot say that it was the right attitude of a judge given that he did not aware what he punished the citizen for and whether the person was actually punished in accordance with his sentence.

Until the beginning of the hearing, Kim failed to submit a detailed report on how he spent special expenses granted to him for spending at his discretion. It is hard to understand his refusal to disclose his expenditures, considering past precedents and the latest scandal involving two senior prosecutors facing dismissal for their inappropriate use of such expenses. In 2013, Lee Dong-heup, the nominee for Supreme Court chief justice, stepped down as the nominee due to allegations of having embezzled some 300 million won (266,785 U.S. dollars).