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[Opinion] Lengthy Sentence Syndrome

Posted May. 26, 2005 03:31,   


One of the characteristics of court rulings is that the sentences are lengthy. A typical court ruling would read, “The plaintiff’s litigation attorney requested such ruling by stating such reason, and according to the defendant’s answer that said such, as evidence of such…” Having paragraph-long single sentences, with various meanings within them, confuses the reader. There are also a variety of Chinese character style expressions. A few examples would be “Humgyul” (deficient and shortage), “Wija” (console and help), and “Pyeonchwi” (obtained by fraud).

The prosecution is no exception to using long difficult sentences. The warrants or arraignments are not much different from that of court rulings. In December 1995, when indicting defendants Jeon Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo for the December 12 coup d’etat, the prosecution’s written arraignment was a page-long sentence. The length was an amazing 6,700 letters, or 34 pages of 200-letter manuscript paper. With the practice of lengthening sentences by such as “it can be said that it cannot avoid revocation because it cannot be said not to be illegal,” some say that it is a lengthy sentence syndrome.

It is reported that nowadays in Russia, the “Yukos Ruling” is a hot topic. The length of the ruling draws more interest than the actual context. The court has spent two to six hours per day for the last 10 days reading the ruling on former Yukos Chairman Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was indicted for tax evasion in 2003. The ruling is over 1,000 pages long, and according to regulations, the court has read the entire ruling before giving the sentence, so one does not know when the trial will end.

Former Yukos Chairmen Khodorkovsky acquired state-run oil company Yukos in 1996, and grew it into a global oil company. He was once the world’s richest man under 40, and with Russia’s presidential elections coming in 2003, he emerged as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s strong political rival. There were also rumors that the Kremlin would take measures against him. It is reported that his trial is not irrelevant to such conditions. In other words, the trial is being prolonged to wear out his supporters. In all times and places, guaranteeing the independence of courts seems to be a difficult task.

Song Dae-keun, Editorial Writer, dksong@donga.com