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Support for judge lambasted for Facebook post

Hankyoreh, Seoul

Support for judge lambasted for Facebook post

Fellow judges challenge the politicized criticism of judge neutrality

By Kim Jeong-pil

29 November 2011


Two judges have come out in support of Judge Choi Eun-bae, who posted a message on Facebook criticizing the railroading of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA), and was subsequently lambasted by the conservative Chosun Ilbo newspaper.

Seoul Northern District Court Judge Byeon Min-seon posted a message entitled “A Short Opinion on an Article of the Chosun Ilbo” in support of Choi, of the Incheon District Court, on the court’s internal network, “Courtnet.”

Byeon said, “Is it right to attempt to threaten judges into not expressing their personal opinions through publicizing an individual judge’s personal remarks and convicting him on the basis of his message and a group he belongs to?” Judge Byeon also criticized the Supreme Court’s response saying, “The Supreme Court’s decision to immediately refer this to the Public Service Ethics Committee threatens their status as an independent body.”

Earlier, the Chosun Ilbo ran an article criticizing Choi for violating the duty of a judge to remain politically neutral after Choi posted a message criticizing the railroading of the KORUS FTA on Facebook.

Changwon District Court Presiding Judge Lee Jeong-ryeol also posted a satirical message on Nov. 25 via Facebook. Lee’s message said, “The National Assembly has made a resolute decision for national salvation by passing the KORUS FTA for the sake of the Republic of Korea and the future of our descendants. I truly respect the National Assembly members that have made this decision, and the president, who has worked day and night to ensure the solidarity of South Korea-U.S. security. Thank you for all your hard work. This, too, is a politically biased message.”

“They must mean that people with progressive tendencies should not be judges. In that case, all judges with conservative tendencies should resign, too. I will resign as well,” Lee wrote.

On Nov. 27, just after KBS’s “Gag Concert” comedy program had finished, Lee posted a message saying, “I never used to feel envious when I watched comedians, but when I watched Gag Concert today I was so envious of them for being able to say openly what they wanted to say. And some people say judges cannot use Facebook, where you at least used to be able to say whatever you wanted. I will carry on using Facebook. Just leave me alone and do not get on my nerves.”  

Byeon, Lee and Choi are members of the Uri Law Study Association, a group of progressive judges.