Prosecutors Monday requested an arrest warrant for Ko Young-han and Park Byung-dae, former Supreme Court justices, over alleged power abuse scandal. “As the two former Supreme Court justices have denied all allegations and made statements that were significantly different from the ones made by their subordinates, arrest warrant request was unavoidable,” said prosecutors. This is the first time that former top court justices are faced with possible arrest on criminal charges. A court will open a hearing to review the validity of the warrant and decide on an arrest warrant on Wednesday.
Former Supreme Court justice Park is involved in some 30 charges, including interfering with forced labor cases while former Supreme Court justice Ko has some 20 charges, including interfering with the bribery trial of a businessman that involved an appeals court judge. It would be an apparent abuse of judicial power if the two former top court justices, who both served as the chief of the National Court Administration (NCA) from Feb. 2014 to May 2017, are found to have kept a blacklist of judges who were critical of the judicial administration.
The court would deliberate on who would review the validity of their warrants. If the warrants for the former top court justices are dismissed, the court will face criticism from the public. Then the ruling party is likely to demand setting up a special tribunal, which could be in violation of the Constitution, for fair trials. The court should be strict with its decision since a series of its arrest warrant rejections have already caused much controversy.
The allegations for Park amount to 159 pages. In the application of the arrest warrant for Lim Jong-hun, the former deputy chief of the court administration body, Park appears as his accomplice. Prosecutors will call in Supreme Court Chief Justice Yang Seung-tae around the year-end for questioning. Once Park is arrested, Yang could be named as an accomplice in the application. Prosecutors are getting to the bottom of the power abuse case involving former high-ranking judges.
People’s distrust in the judicial system is deepening as they are witnessing constant trouble within the court. Recently, a man, who was dissatisfied with a court’s ruling, threw a Molotov cocktail at Supreme Court Chief Justice Kim Myeong-su’s car. Ahn Chul-sang, the head of the NCA, criticized the prosecutors’ investigation for being prolonged by saying, “A great doctor performs an operation only on the affected area.” One can clearly see the trouble the judicial branch is in from the recent situation.
The Supreme Court had a long debate Monday on judicial reform and the national court presidents’ meeting is set to be held on Friday. The disciplinary committee deliberated on the level of disciplinary action against 13 judges, who are involved in a power abuse case. To be sure, the root cause of the problem should be eliminated. But we cannot let it lead to people’s distrust in the entire judicial system. If the judicial branch cannot correct itself, outside intervention is inevitable. The court should look back on itself and should be unwavering in pushing ahead with judicial reform.