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[Editorial] The Judiciary’s Efforts to Correct Past Injustices Must Not Be Overwhelmed by Outside Pressure

[Editorial] The Judiciary’s Efforts to Correct Past Injustices Must Not Be Overwhelmed by Outside Pressure

Posted September. 30, 2005 08:12,   


Since Lee Yong-hun, the new chief justice of the Supreme Court, stressed the importance of correcting past injustices committed by the judiciary during the nation’s authoritarian regimes in his inauguration ceremony, local courts have been busy collecting information about sentences handed down to defendants who were accused of anti-government activities during authoritarian regimes. Although, at a news conference that was held to celebrate the inauguration, Lee asserted that outside figures will not participate in the investigation and nobody will be punished, we can’t rule out the possibility that the new judiciary that has started its office with the emphasis on the correction of past misconducts may follow the lead of political parties.

The judiciary of this country has been suffering from its past inability to protect the independence of the judiciary, which was seriously hampered by the vehement oppression of authoritarian regimes, particularly during the fifth republic and Yusin Era (The later part of the Park Chung-hee authoritarian regime that started with the introduction of Yusin Constitution in 1972, rendering Park’s dictatorship legal). For example, the judiciary sentenced those who were involved in the “Inhyeokdang Incident,” which is also known as “murder incident committed by judiciary,” to death. Even though they argued that the decision was made in accordance with the law, people have continued to denounce the judiciary for its reliance on intelligence agencies and political power, and for its neglect of duty. It is very necessary, of course, for the court to preserve sentence records and provide them as sources for future academic research because we can learn lessons by looking into what we have done before.

Before Lee was appointed as the 14th chief of the Supreme Court, some civic groups and judicial organizations argued that Lee, who has served as a justice of the Supreme Court, must not assume the chief of Supreme Court because the former justice was connected to the judiciary’s past misconduct. Lee was appointed a judicial officer during the nation’s third republic and promoted to justice of the Supreme Court in 1994. Thus, we can’t say that the new chief is completely innocent from the suspicion of judiciary’s past injustices. However, if Lee’s new judiciary is overwhelmed by such outside pressure and puts overdue stress on correcting past wrongdoings, the foundation of the judiciary system will be shrunk as whole and its independence will be seriously attacked again.

One of the foremost responsibilities that Lee should take on as new chief of the Supreme Court is to protect the judiciary from attacks of outside pressure and political power. The judiciary’s new initiative for the correction of past injustices that aims to reflect itself for a better future must not degenerate into a political struggle. Lee Yong-hun’s new judiciary is now standing at the crossroads.