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[Editorial] Chief Justice to Recommend Positions for Independent Counsel

[Editorial] Chief Justice to Recommend Positions for Independent Counsel

Posted June. 30, 2005 06:27,   


A strange bill deviating from the basic judicial principle of “independent investigative and jurisdictional rights” was passed with the approval of both the ruling and opposition parties at a sub-committee meeting of the National Assembly’s Legislation and Judicial Committee. The independent counsel bill for the Russian oil development scandal stipulates that the Chief Justice will nominate two special prosecutors instead of the head of the Korean Bar Association, which is somewhat different from the past.

The government party wrangled against itself to prevent giving nomination rights to the somewhat conservative Korean Bar Association chairman and came up with a petty plan which, it seems, the opposition party joined without giving much thought to.

The special prosecutor is also a prosecutor who investigates. The judiciary is an organization that decides on a case under indictment. If the Chief Justice becomes involved in the selection for the special prosecutor, who is in charge of the investigation and indictment, it will be directly violating the principle of separation of investigative, prosecution, and jurisdictional rights. When the investigation is finished and the case is passed on to the court, the special prosecutor selected by the Chief Justice may institute and support the public action, which could possibly affect the judgment.

The independent counsel bill was introduced to resolve the people’s suspicions. Rep. Lee Kwang-jae, a close confidant of President Roh Moo-hyun, was included on the list of those subject to investigation regarding the oil scandal. The fact that the ruling party disregarded the past habitual practice of an independent counsel bill and set up a expedient idea to take away the bar association’s nomination rights is increasing suspicions. If Rep. Lee is innocent as he insists, investigating under the prosecutor recommended by the bar association chairman who is critical to the government will help in clearing the people’s suspicions regarding the case.

The Chief Justice must keep politically neutral. Granting the right to recommend official positions such as the judges for the Constitutional Court or the lawmakers for the National Election Commission was given to maintain the balance between the three powers and to respect the political neutrality of the Chief Justice. However, the independent counsel is the investigative organization at the center of the dispute between the ruling and opposition parties. If the positions for the independent counsel are recommended by the Chief Justice in a case where the ruling and opposition parties are radically opposed, the head of the judiciary will be entangled in political strife and lose his neutrality. If investigation results that do not meet the expectations of the people are presented, he may be subjected to criticism and blame for his recommendation.

The Supreme Court also submitted a written statement opposing the recommendation rights of the Chief Justice for the positions of the independent counsel. The opinion of the Supreme Court must be respected.