An arson attack at a law firm in central Daegu was committed on Thursday by a man who lost the first trial in a civil case to do harm to a lawyer on the defense, leaving seven people dead and around 50 injured. Although the lawyer who was the target of the arsonist was away on business, another lawyer and employees in the same office were victimized by the arson attack. As some of the victims were found with stab wounds as well as bleeding, experts assumed that they must have been trembling in fear in front of the suspect wielding a knife.
If the party defeated may not accept a ruling, the case can be brought to a higher court up to twice to further seek legal judgement. Nevertheless, the suspect ignored these institutional procedures in place but put retaliatory attacks into action. What’s worse, his resentment was aimed at the lawyer who fulfilled his legal duties in the interest of his client, which is more of a terrorist act against the rule of law rather than an attack at an individual lawyer.
Reportedly, a considerable number of lawyers suffer a wide range of abusive language and threats while at work as they have a close relationship with their clients during the job and law firms are open to anyone unlike the court or prosecutors’ office. The suspect made a complaint on the phone causing trouble with the lawyer’s employees before he dropped by to set fire. The incident killed or injured those irrelevant to the case in question. Lawyers may never be able to do their duty of defending their clients’ basic rights if their own safety can be put at risk. Likewise, those desperate to make things right for justice won’t feel safe when visiting lawyers for consultation.
This disastrous incident is reminiscent of the death of Professor Lim Se-won, a psychiatrist who was stabbed by a patient in the office in 2018, which revealed how not only medical staffers but also patients at hospital can be vulnerable to violence. Afterwards, a revised bill of the Medical Service Act passed the National Assembly to strictly punish anyone who inflicts damage to health providers and strengthen safety systems in medical centers. Following the arson attack in Daegu, the Korean Bar Association formed a special committee to take measures to keep lawyers safe. We can ensure the public’s rights to receive help from lawyers only when they can feel safe without being blackmailed at work.
As part of long-term efforts, we should gradually enhance public trust in the judicial system, which places the nation at the lowest level among the OECD member states. With that, we can nip horrendous terrorist attacks at the roots of the rule of law at in the bud.