Go to contents

Lawmakers Grill Supreme Court Nominees

Posted June. 27, 2006 03:17,   


On June 26, the National Assembly Special Personnel Hearing Committee, chaired by lawmaker Choi Byung-gook, held hearings on Supreme Court Justice nominees Kim Neung-hwan and Park Ill-hoan. This was the first of the three-day hearings that will be conducted over the five nominees.

The inquiries of the hearings were focused on judicial issues such as judicial reform plans or benefits awarded to former prosecutors and judges, rather than the traditional questions focusing on military service and assets.

Members of the hearing committee also urged the nominees to make their position clear, when the nominees only repeated fundamental principles.

Nominee Kim Neung-hwan—

Nominee Kim expressed a negative opinion toward the introduction of standards for sentencing, which the government is pursuing as part of judicial reform, by saying, “There is a problem.” When Grand National Party (GNP) Lawmaker Kim Gi-hyeon asked, “Isn’t it a problem to set a standard for sentencing without considering a system or an environment that trusts and relies on the judgment of the judge?” nominee Kim answered, “yes.”

When opposition party lawmakers inquired about his ideological tendencies by referring to the “Ohsonghwoi Case” where he suspended the sentence of a high school teacher indicted of violating the National Security Law by teaching leftist ideas in 1983, he held his ground by answering that it was a verdict reached by the evidence presented and principles.

Nevertheless, he clearly expressed his opposition to abolishing the National Security Law. He said, “According to the Constitution, North Korea, which rules the Republic of Korea’s territory, is an anti-state organization. It will be troublesome to regulate North Korean issues with only criminal law provisions.”

On the question asking his opinion about Supreme Court Chief Justice Lee Yong-hun, criticizing the way Doosan Group corruption case was handled, he answered, “It is not desirable, by itself, for the Supreme Court Chief Justice to comment on a specific case.”

On the Supreme Court and Constitutional Court’s role clashing issue, he stated, “It will be beneficial to both to become united under one institution sometime in the future in order to solve the paradox of dual judgment.”

During the hearing, nominee Kim was silent for about five to eight seconds after most of the questions as if hesitating, and then gave his answers.

Nominee Park Ill-hoan—

When committee members pointed out that nominee Park’s provisional disposition decision to stop the “Soribada,” a music sharing website, might limit the rights of consumers, he opposed, “Consumers should at least pay something so record makers would have the will to create music.”

On the issue of creating law schools he agreed to the change, stating, “Currently, only 1,000 out of 20,000 applicants pass the national bar exam, and it takes about six months from taking the test until results come out, so there are various problems such as students being unable to study well during this period.”

When GNP Lawmaker Joo Ho-young asked, “There are many verdicts ruling on the unconstitutionality of some laws. What is the quality of laws being legislated nowadays?” he avoided a direct answer by replying, “The number of laws has increased, and with the Koreans’ perception about their rights increasing, I predict that controversies regarding unconstitutionality of certain laws will increase.”

He stated that marital rape could constitute a crime, and pointed out with regard to interest groups demonstrating in front of the court, “Obstinate demonstrations to exert pressure are not a good phenomenon.”

On the National Security Law, he commented, “If the Korean people agree to it, its revision or abolishment is possible, but in the shoes of the court, it should be conservative and stable.”

Nominees Ahn Dae-hee and Lee Hong-hun will attend June 27 hearings while nominee Jeon Soo-ahn will have her hearing on June 28.

Jung-Eun Lee lightee@donga.com