Army Must Hire Zealous Advocates
Dear Worried Mother: The Korean legal system generally operates in a fair manner. Judges are normally independent, intelligent, and highly capable. However, when an American soldier is allegedly involved in a crime, the system often does not operate in the same manner. The system often receives overwhelming pressure from the media, the public, and NGOs to strictly punish the alleged perpetrators. To combat this disadvantage, a highly competent and zealous advocate is needed. All U.S. soldiers and most foreigners facing a serious criminal charge in Korea should employ a highly competent and zealous advocate. If you don’t, you will be at a marked disadvantage.
The Korean attorneys hired by the American military to defend American soldiers, in cases pending at Korean courts, normally, are not highly competent and do not zealously advocate for clients. Many of the hired advocates are not fluent in English, are not willing to use their influence within the court system and will not zealously advocate for their clients. In many cases the attorney has no influence on the judgment or the sentence that the court handed down, since the attorney is often simply going through the motions.
It seems like the military is unable to hire highly competent zealous advocates to defend clients partially because of their limited budget, but also because of the fact that most Korean lawyers do not speak English well, will only use their influence and act in a zealous manner in the most profitable of cases or in cases that are not of interest to the public.
A few lawyers are exceptions to this rule and usually these lawyers work closely with foreign lawyers, have practiced law in a foreign jurisdiction, and/or are being paid very handsomely. It is essential to find and employ one of these attorneys in all matters concerning serious crimes in Korea. The best manner to contact one of these lawyers is through the small number of foreign lawyers that work closely with Korean lawyers. Many are well aware of which lawyers are best suited for the needs of foreign clients.
Attorney Sean Hayes is a professor of law at Kookmin University and researcher for the Constitutional Court of Korea. Direct questions to SeanHayes@ahnse.com or www.ahnse.blogspot.com. Questions are edited for clarity.