Go to contents

[Editorial] Independence of the Constitutional Court

Posted November. 08, 2008 15:51,   


Strategy and Finance Minister Kang Man-soo made an inappropriate comment at the National Assembly Thursday. On his forecast for the Constitutional Court ruling on the comprehensive property tax, Kang said he contacted the court and expects certain elements of the tax code to be ruled unconstitutional. He is now under fire for allegedly trying to undermine the political neutrality and integrity of the Constitutional Court.

Kang said two senior tax officials contacted the chief justice to explain the ministry`s position, adding one of them said the court will likely rule certain aspects of the controversial tax law unconstitutional. The minister later explained that the report was actually based on a legal adviser`s opinion. The Constitutional Court also said the ministry officials contacted the court’s researcher to explain the matter and submit an opinion. If the ministry`s explanation is correct, Kang must have received an inaccurate report or made an erroneous explanation at the Assembly, inviting harsh criticism.

Though all parties to a Constitutional Court case are banned from expressing an opinion to a justice, they can do so to the court’s researcher. Officials at the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae also spoke to Constitutional Court researchers during the impeachment trial of President Roh Moo-hyun. On the constitutionality of the comprehensive property tax, the Roh administration submitted its opinion to the court four times. A ministry director was also dispatched to work at the Constitutional Court for two years from 2000. A director of the National Tax Service still works at the court.

Thus the excessive reaction by opposition parties to Kang`s comment is wrong. The main opposition Democratic Party accused the Lee administration of trampling on the Constitution and the country’s foundation without checking facts based on assumptions. Party members even visited the Constitutional Court to submit a petition demanding the protection of the disputed real estate tax.

The Constitutional Court must remain independent and free from pressure from both the ruling and oppositional parties. The Democratic Party, however, is openly pressuring the Constitutional Court yet calls government contact with the court infringement of the Constitution.

"Each one of the judges will proceed with the case according to the Constitution and consciousness, only thinking of the people’s will and the country’s future," the Constitutional Court said yesterday. The high court, the last bastion of domestic law, should not be swayed by the political bickering outside the court and make a ruling on the tax in conformity with the Constitution as scheduled Thursday.