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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Feb. 2)

Editorials from Korean Dailies 09:34 February 02, 2019

Challenge to democracy
Ruling party should respect ruling in opinion rigging case

Any act of manipulating public opinion is a serious crime. So anyone involved in such a crime should be subject to harsh punishment. Any type of opinion rigging poses a grave threat to democracy.

A case in point is a massive opinion manipulation scheme involving South Gyeongsang Province Governor Kim Kyoung-soo, a close confidant of President Moon Jae-in. On Wednesday, the Seoul Central District Court sentenced him to two years and 10 months in prison for colluding with a power blogger in rigging comments on internet news articles in favor of Moon in the lead-up to the May 2017 presidential election.

The ruling against Kim and the blogger, better known by his nickname Druking, is a stern warning against any attempt to tamper with public opinion. In this sense, we should respect the ruling although some people are against it for some reasons.

Now what is shocking is not the guilty verdict itself, but the ruling party's reckless and nonsensical reaction to the court action. The Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) has virtually declared disobedience to the ruling against Kim who is affiliated with the party.

Even DPK lawmakers went to extremes to frame the court decision as retaliation by corrupt judges accused of abusing judicial power under the leadership of former Chief Justice Yang Sung-tae. Yang was arrested last week on charges of abuse of his authority under the rule of ousted President Park Geun-hye.

DPK floor leader Rep. Hong Young-pyo is leading the protest against the ruling to save Gov. Kim. But he went too far in denouncing the court for what he said was a systematic resistance from evils accumulated in the judiciary under Yang.

Some other party members even floated the idea of impeaching presiding judge Sung Chang-ho and other judges for handing down the prison term for Kim. It is ridiculous for them to talk about the impeachment. Lawmakers should not be in a position to decide if a court ruling is fair or not.

In this regard, the DPK and its members cannot avoid criticism for undermining the firm democratic principle: the separation of three powers of the legislative, judiciary and executive branches. They have also shown flagrant disregard for the due process of law and the right to a fair trial.

They should realize their acts pose a serious challenge not only to the criminal justice system, but also to the democratic system of the nation. It defies both common sense and legal logic to stigmatize judge Sung as one of the "old evils" just because he once served as secretary of Yang.

In fact, Sung deserves credit for making rulings in a fair and objective way. He sentenced former President Park to eight years in prison for illegally accepting funds from the National Intelligence Service and interfering in nominations of candidates for general elections.

We urge the governing party and its legislators to stop their attempts to put the judiciary's political neutrality and independence at risk. They had better wait for higher courts to uphold or reject the district court ruling as Gov. Kim has already decided to appeal. Let the judiciary do its job.

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