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[Opinion] Legal Action Paradise

Posted April. 18, 2007 03:05,   


As much as we tend to breach the law in our everyday lives, we also are not hesitant to involve the law when disputes arise. This shows the duality of our law conscience. Such a custom is reflected in the high number of litigation cases in Korea. The number of cases brought to the prosecution amounted to 470,000 in 2004, and above 420,000 in both 2005 and 2006. These numbers are 150 times more than Japan’s. The annual growth rate of the number of appeals where plaintiffs object to the disposition of the prosecution is about 20%. Korea deserves its nickname of “legal action paradise.”

It seems the situation is only getting worse, and the possibility of an arbitration system that allows a plaintiff to directly appeal to the court in case the prosecution does not institute a suit, will be expanded to cover every type of suit. Presently, only the three crimes: abuse of authority by government employees, illegal arrest and detention, and corrupt practices of violence are eligible for arbitration.

But an amendment bill to the code of criminal procedure that would change that passed the examination session of the Legislation-Judiciary Committee in National Assembly yesterday, only leaving a general meeting of the committee and a regular session vote of the Assembly ahead. If the measure passes, the controversy over the use of arbitration will come to a conclusion for the first time in 20 years.

The intention of the amendment is to protect the rights and interests of the plaintiff and to check the authority of the prosecution, which some argue have a monopoly over indictments. The prosecution may be threatened by this, since this amendment could lead to a decline in the influence of the prosecution and a rise in that of the court, which are the two wheels of the judicature. But it doesn`t seem like that the court is welcoming this either. The court expects that the confirmation of the amendment bill will give rise to more than 10,000 arbitration cases per year. This will overload the court with the heavy task of intervening in the results of investigations carried out by the prosecution, when it is already busy giving priority to public cases.

The gravest matter is that the change will destabilize the lives of defendants for a long period of time. At the moment, it takes from six months to more than a year to go through the appeals process in Korea’s first and second circuit courts. When an application for arbitration is granted, the conclusion of a case could take at least one or two years more. There already exist a great number of false accusations in the legal system. Who will take care of the mental and material losses of the defendants when cases end up finding them innocent? The National Assembly needs to have a serious and careful conversation on preventive measures against the possible negative effects or arbitration.

Editorial Writer, Yuk Jeong-su, sooya@donga.com