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[Opinion] Video Testimony

Posted September. 21, 2004 22:09,   


“If I were to lie, I will be punished with perjury,” that was said before court testimonies was always true, judges would find the process of making decisions much easier. There are those who attend a U.S. congressional hearing and swear upon a bible to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, but then lie without even flicking an eye.

A lot of politicians have this amazing quality, making truth finding very obscure. This is due to the fact that people use different viewpoints to evaluate the same agenda. Also, there is a limit to what you can remember.

In a civil trial, a paper contract has more evidential power than testimony. Thus, the saying, “one document is better than 10 witnesses.” Even with the report in the Monthly Chosun that parliament member Kim Hee-sun’s father worked as a Manchurian police officer, Kim’s relatives do not speak the same language. What they said earlier and after those words were criticized differ. With Kim’s father’s job, it would be much more efficient for Kim’s family or the Monthly Chosun to find Japanese ruling era records than to find 10 witnesses to talk at a press conference to support their point.

Unlike foreign courts, Korean civil trials have many questions for witnesses to answer. This is because there still exists the tradition of contracting verbally rather than in writing. Whereas civil trials do not give much importance to testimony, criminal trials give a lot of momentum to testimony. There are no criminals who write down a written document of what he or she will do. The accused has to put his or her life in the hands of witnesses, crime victims, or crime-related people.

Victims of criminal organizations or drugs are reluctant to testify, as they fear retaliation. This is the same for rape victims. The Seoul Central District Court has provided a “video testifying room,” where rape victims can testify without sitting face-to-face with the assaulter. Judge, prosecutor, lawyer, and the accused attend the trial by watching a video monitor. The victim’s human rights are important, but so are the assaulter’s defense rights. Video testimony seems like an unlikely substitute for a face-to-face trial.

Hwang Ho-taek, Editorial writer, hthwang@donga.com