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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Dec. 5)

All News 07:00 December 05, 2018

Probe into Kim & Chang
Nation's biggest law firm implicated in judiciary abuse

Korea's biggest law firm Kim & Chang has become a new center of attention in the widening probe into the judiciary abuse case surrounding former Supreme Court Justice Yang Sung-tae during the previous Park Geun-hye administration.

Prosecutors said Monday they had searched the law firm Nov. 12 on allegations of meddling in trials related to Korean victims of wartime forced labor by Japanese companies during the 1910-45 occupation of Korea. This marks the first time the nation's key law firm has been searched by the prosecution.

Prosecutors searched the offices of two lawyers, Kwak Byung-hun, who previously served as presidential secretary for legal affairs from February 2015 to May 2016 at Park's Cheong Wa Dae, and another lawyer surnamed Han, who is known to have close ties to Yang.

During the search, the prosecutors obtained evidence supporting allegations that the two served as mediators between the National Court Administration, Cheong Wa Dae and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to delay the forced labor trials.

The prosecution has summoned Kwak multiple times since September regarding the allegations, but it was made public for the first time that Han, who led the law firm's litigation team at the time, also played a key role. Kim & Chang is representing the Japanese firms in the wartime forced labor cases. Prosecutors found that Yang met with Han multiple times at his office between May 2015 and October 2016 to discuss delaying the rulings, which Park saw as damaging to Korea-Japan relations.

Many Koreans are disturbed by reports that the country's largest law firm has been implicated in such a grave scandal, which has severely impacted the people's trust in the judiciary. It is highly alarming that a powerful law firm like Kim & Chang might have played an active role in the collusion between the executive and judicial branches.

The news of the search came as prosecutors requested arrest warrants for former Supreme Court justices Ko Young-han and Park Byong-dae for their alleged involvement in the judiciary abuse. The arrest warrants for former Supreme Court justices is unprecedented. Last month, judges from courts nationwide also participated in a rare vote to impeach sitting judges implicated in the scandal.

Following these unusual developments, many Koreans are seriously disappointed about the loss of judicial independence from political power.

To establish justice and rebuild the people's trust in the judiciary, the prosecution should thoroughly investigate the Supreme Court's trial manipulation in politically sensitive cases during Yang's tenure to deliver verdicts favorable to the Park administration in exchange for favors from Cheong Wa Dae. In this regard, the prosecution should swiftly summon Yang, who is at the center of the trial manipulation scandal among others.


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