The ruling Democratic Party held a press conference at the National Assembly Tuesday to criticize a sentence given to South Gyeongsang Province Governor Kim Kyoung-soo. In an apparent attempt to avoid giving an impression that they are disobeying the ruling, the party invited two external experts. However, it’s hard to say neither of them holds a neutral stance, because one is a professor who had served as a prosecutor and run for the Democratic Party in the general elections while the other is a lawyer working for Minbyun, which is an organization of progressive lawyers.
At a meeting on Monday with regional supporters for Kim in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province, Democratic Party Chairman Lee Hae-chan announced that bail will be requested around Thursday this week for the governor. He said that it is common sense that a normal court would allow governance to take place without vacuum in provincial affairs, effectively pressuring the court to release Kim on bail.
Political parties have often criticized the judicial branch’s verdicts on certain cases, but this is an unprecedented case where the leadership of the ruling party, though it’s already been almost three weeks since the first ruling was out, continues to take issue about the ruling and even brings outside experts to make their point.
Understandably, questions could rise over whether placing an incumbent governor under detention is appropriate. It is also our position that unless committed crimes are clearly immoral and anti-establishment, trials of ordinary civilians as well as public figures should be proceeded without physical restraint until they are finally convicted. However, the court’s decision to hold Kim at a detention facility is not unrelated to the atmosphere prevalent within the court that calls for stiff punishment, especially during probes into corruption scandals, and it was the Moon Jae-in administration and the ruling party that have been seeking harshness in dealing with such cases in the first place.
The ruling party’s current movement is not helping Kim, either. Even if the court makes an independent judgement to grant bail to Kim or decides to reverse the verdict in certain ways, it may give the wrong idea that the ruling party’s pressure worked. The party should not forget that the separation of powers needs to be maintained because if damaged, it can result in people’s distrust.