Lawyers, Judges and Prosecutors Play Blame Game
By Kang Hyun-kyung
Representatives from three entities subject to judicial reform -- the judiciary, the prosecution and lawyers -- pointed their fingers at one another Tuesday regarding which one should take responsibility for public distrust.
The blame game was in full swing during a hearing hosted by an ad hoc National Assembly committee on reform.
Those representing the three parties were invited to the event to inform lawmakers of their "wish lists."
Kim Pyung-woo, president of the Korean Bar Association, insisted that all problems related to public distrust stem from the bad practice of sitting judges giving special consideration to judges-turned-lawyers when ruling on cases.
"People say we, lawyers, charge our clients too high legal fees. But this is only the case with a small number of lawyers, mostly former judges or prosecutors," Kim said.
"People should know that 99 percent of lawyers in practice are faced with a tough financial reality and that they have a hard time managing their office budget every month."
Kim solicited legislators to map out a binding measure allowing the public to access information concerning what's going on inside courtroom by taping all trials.
He made the suggestion after Rep. Sohn Beom-kyu of the ruling Grand National Party (GNP) addressed the problem of some lawyers overcharging their clients.
Citing a Western tale, Sohn said greedy lawyers draw hatred and anger from the public.
He also proposed that the judiciary consider only appointing lawyers with 10 years of experience or more as judges.
The judiciary was skeptical about the proposal.
Park Ill-hoan, minister of the National Court Administration, claimed the idea made sense but was unrealistic.
He noted that senior judges trained as entry-level judges for approximately 10 years before they were placed in a court.
"If senior lawyers had effectively trained their young counterparts so that a pool of experienced people had been set in place, we would be happy to invite them into the judiciary as judges," he said.
"I regret that they didn't play the role, and few human resources are available outside the judiciary. This is the reality facing us."
During the hearing, Rep. Park Joo-sun of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) warned of the prosecution's practice of pre-indictment disclosure of the facts that prosecutors gathered during investigations of suspects.
"The procedure of the prosecution's investigations is a whole mess," he said.
Park alleged that prosecutors indicted opposition lawmakers or politicians first without evidence and then they began searching for proof of wrongdoings.
"This bad practice was highlighted when prosecutors investigated the late former President Roh Moo-hyun, and the practice led to his death. It is being repeated now with the charges being brought against former Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook of taking bribes from a former businessman," the lawmaker said.
Park claimed that based on the circumstances, Han didn't take the money.
But she is under investigation because she appears to be the most viable candidate to run in the Seoul mayoral election on June 2 on the DP's ticket, he added.
The lawmaker further called the prosecution a handmaid for those who are in power.
Justice Minister Lee Kwi-nam answered that the investigation was not politically motivated, stressing prosecutors indicted the former prime minister after finding evidence supporting the charge.
Since he took office, the justice ministry has investigated a total of eight mayors on charges of taking bribes and seven of them ran in the election on the GNP's ticket, he stressed.
The special committee will hold another two hearings until Thursday before the committee members discuss the reform measures.