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Personal Attacks on Judge Rising Online

Posted January. 12, 2009 07:16,   


In the wake of the arrest of the alleged Internet pundit “Minerva,” online witchhunts are intensifying, with the judge who issued an arrest warrant for the suspect becoming a main target.

“Given the nature of the issue`s severity, there is a need for the detention,” said Kim Yong-sang, a senior judge at the Seoul Central District Court, Saturday.

Right after the issuance of the arrest warrant, netizens began blasting Kim on Internet portal sites, posting his photo and personal information including the names of the high school and university he graduated from.

His photo and background information spread to most Web bulletin boards and blogs on major portal sites yesterday, containing derogatory comments such as “He should resign from the court,” “He looks ferocious,” and “Is Kim a problem solver for (President) Lee Myung-bak?”

One user launched a signature campaign yesterday afternoon on the online discussion forum Agora urging Kim’s impeachment for issuing the arrest warrant.

Others accused the court of making arbitrary decisions in issuing arrest warrants. The court issued warrants against Kim Min-seok, a leading member of the main opposition Democratic Party’s supreme council, and Roh Gun-pyeong, the elder brother of former President Roh Moo-hyun.

Arrest warrants were rejected for Kim Sun-ae, the mother of Yang Jeong-rye, the ruling Grand National Party’s proportional representative elected on the Pro-Park Alliance’s nomination, and aides to Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education chief Kong Jeong-taik for alleged bribery.

Netizens last year also denounced Min Byeong-hoon, a judge at the Seoul Central District Court, for clearing former Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun-hee of trying to transfer the group’s managerial right to his son.

Experts say, however, that criticism of Minerva`s arrest constitutes cyber terrorism and undermines the fundamentals of the legal system.

Office worker Lee Tae-mo said, “Denouncing a judge and posting his photo because of opposition to the ruling is a witchhunt and subjecting him to a kangaroo court. This can discourage judges from giving impartial rulings."

Legal experts say indiscriminate acts by Web users can expedite the introduction of a cyber defamation law that they vehemently oppose.

“If the public perception prevails that netizens are a reckless mob that even attack court judges, the government’s attempt to introduce a cyber defamation law will gain momentum,” said Jang Yeong-soo, a law professor at Korea University.