Back To Top

Top justice vows to take right action on surveillance of judges

Supreme Court Chief Justice Kim Meong-su said on Monday he was “disappointed” at the recent findings that the judiciary under his predecessor had tried to make deals with the presidential office over trials to get its support to introduce a new appellate court.

“I am sorry (the judiciary) has disappointed the people. I am disappointed as well,” Kim told reporters on his way to work.

A special inquiry panel under the Supreme Court said in a report on Friday that it found more documents in which the National Court Administration under former chief justice Yang Sung-tae offered to “coordinate in advance” with the presidential office of former President Park Geun-hye on certain trials.

The panel said the NCA’s moves came as it sought support from the National Assembly and the presidential office for its long-cherished project to introduce a new appellate court to handle ordinary appeal cases, allowing the Supreme Court to deal only with cases of national importance. 

Supreme Court Chief Justice Kim Meong-su (Yonhap)
Supreme Court Chief Justice Kim Meong-su (Yonhap)

Regarding calls to file a complaint with the prosecution against Yang and former NCA officials who surveilled judges and tried to interfere with trials, Kim said he will take them into consideration.

Kim was reserved about follow-up measures, saying he has not thoroughly examined the panel’s report yet.

“I am aware there are different opinions about the results of the inquiry and the panel’s views,” he said.

“We will look into the various views and try to come up with the right countermeasures.”

The panel plans to report to Kim on each of the individuals involved in the scandal.

Kim is expected to take disciplinary actions based on the individual reports, and consider filing a complaint with the prosecution if necessary.

Files found in the computers of NCA officials showed that the NCA had abused judicial administrative powers by secretly exchanging views with Cheong Wa Dae to “prevent an unpredictable ruling” on politically sensitive cases, the panel said.

A document dated July 2015, for instance, notes that the NCA can use rulings on former National Intelligence Service chief Won Sei-hoon and then opposition lawmaker Park Jie-won to appease the presidential office.

Won is behind bars for using NIS funds to meddle in the 2012 presidential election by running teams to post online politically biased comments. The Supreme Court sent Won’s case back for retrial in 2015 after he was sentenced to a jail term.

The obsession with the new appellate court led to the surveillance of judges, according to the panel.

Documents showed that the NCA monitored a study group of judges who were critical about introducing the new appellate court, and considered ways to disband the group. The panel said, however, there was no evidence that the judges involved suffered professional disadvantage.

It also did background checks on a judge who repeatedly criticized the introduction of the appellate court in posts on the court intranet.

NCA documents contained information on the judge’s character, how he prepared trials, his family issues, the emails he exchanged with other judges, as well as changes in his financial assets after he became a judge.

Yang refused to answer the special inquiry panel‘s questions about the NCA’s surveillance of judges and interference in trials.

By Kim So-hyun (