By Park Si-soo
Starting next week, retired judges and prosecutors will be banned from handling criminal and civil cases filed with their last workplaces for one year after they are hired as lawyers.
Under the decades-old practice, better known as “jeongwan yeu,” retired judges and prosecutors who become lawyers have received special treatment from their incumbent former colleagues.
The government said Wednesday a law introducing the restriction earned approval in a Cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik. It came nearly two weeks after the parliament approved a bill laying the legal grounds for the restriction.
The government will officially announce the law through a government gazette next Wednesday and the release immediately gives it binding force, said a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice.
“The ban will take effect from Wednesday. There is no chance that the decision will be overturned,” the spokesman said.
The law has been pushed forward by lawmakers despite strong backlash from the legal circle, to abolish the deep-rooted practice of courts giving favorable verdicts to people represented by former judges and prosecutors.
It was the only bill of this kind endorsed by the parliament last month. Other reformative bills designed to overhaul the structure of the legal system were put on the back burner amid fierce disputes among legislators over other politically sensitive issues.
In Korea where cronyism still prevails, those represented by a lawyer whose previous job was either as a judge or prosecutor used to be given favorable rulings by the courts.
For that reason, some senior judges and prosecutors who proved to have strong ties with their peers are recruited by law firms and paid high salaries alongside extensive benefits.