Supreme Court justices Ko Young-han, Kim Chang-seok, and Kim Shin, who left office on Wednesday after serving their six-year term, expressed regret over the alleged abuse of judicial authority and said people’s trust in the judicial system should not be damaged. The retirement ceremony of the three Supreme Court judges was held in a depressing atmosphere as documents revealed a day earlier showed that the Supreme Court, under former Chief Justice Yang Seung-tae, lobbied to set up a final court of appeals and stroke a deal with trial outcomes.
“I know I don’t deserve to talk about this issue and that makes me feel even more regrettable,” said former head of the National Court Administration (NCA) Ko Young-han. “Although belated, we must stop judicial authority from being damaged further and keep people’s trust in the judicial system.” Kim Chang-seok said, “We must stop undermining people’s trust in the judicial system for the sake of our people and country,” while Kim Shin said, “I hope it is made sure that the Supreme Court justices of Korea have not made rulings against the law and their conscience in exchange for a deal.”
Just like three Supreme Court justices said, we must stop people’s trust in the judicial system from collapsing. Collapsing trust in the judicial system would lead to falling confidence in a fair trial, which would eventually shake the very foundation of the constitutionalism. Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Yang Seung-tae said during a press conference held in front of his house on June 1 that “Failed confidence in the Supreme Court leads to a collapse of a country.” His remarks would have been convincing if he acknowledged his responsibility for abusing judicial authority while promoting a new court of appeals.
Investigation into the abuse of judicial power cannot be completed overnight. People’s confidence in the judiciary will hit the bottom once again during the investigation, prosecution, and following trials. There is already a conflict between the court and the prosecution over submission of documents. The suspicion surrounding the lobbying activities by the NCA must be clarified and the people involved, regardless of their rank, must be punished as well.
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Kim Myeong-su is clearly responsible for the situation, too. The additional disclosure of the documents has been made possible as a result of a resolution adopted by the National Council of Judges calling for the disclosure of the document rather than a decision by the chief justice. They say former chief justice Yang has an overly strong leadership and incumbent chief justice Kim has a weak leadership. Chief Justice Kim should be bound and determined in the effort to reform the judiciary and be unshaken in his belief in order to overcome the unpresented crisis the judiciary is facing.