International Academic Conference in Celebration of 30th Anniversary of Constitutional Court
The Korea University School of Law held 2018 Korea-Germany International Conference
In celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the establishment of the Korean Constitutional Court, the Korea University School of Law held the 2018 Korea-Germany International Conference on campus on Tuesday and Wednesday, November 6-7, in association with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Constitutional Academic and Professional Association. At the Conference, participants discussed how faithfully the Constitutional Court is playing its role as a protector of the Constitution at the interstices of law and politics, and how the administration of justice should be reformed to ensure the independence of the judiciary.
On November 6, the first discussion – titled “Judicial Assessments of Constitutionality and Democracy: Is the Constitutional Court a protector of the Constitution or a political player?”, and presided over by Professor Seung-ju Bang from Hanyang University Law School – started at 2p.m, with the opening speeches by Dean of the Korea University School of Law Soon-gu Myung and Director of the Korean office of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation Stefan Samse.
Former Deputy Chief Justice of the German Federal Administrative Supreme Court and Former Deputy Chief Justice of the Berlin State Constitutional Court Michael Hund, currently an attorney at law, delivered the first presentation, titled “Judicial Assessments of Constitutionality and of Administrative Law in a Democracy: How Political is German Jurisprudence?” Comparing aspects of the Korean and German Constitutional Courts, Hund provided 12 theses which addressed two questions, namely the status under the German Constitution of trials held in the Constitutional and Administrative courts, and the extent to which these courts are political.
The next speaker was Professor Seon-Taek Kim from the KU School of Law. In his presentation on “The Constitution and Judicial Assessments of Constitutionality: on the Border of Law and Politics,” he began by emphasizing the duality of the Constitution and the Constitutional Court due to the opposing pulls of the ideals of justice and of political philosophy and practicality. Touching upon historical cases of the tension between law and politics in the Korean judiciary's assessments of the constitutionality of certain actions or laws, he talked about the distinctive status, mission and structure of the Constitutional Court, and the limits on the adherence to the Constitution on the part of the judiciary itself.
A follow-up discussion began at 4 p.m. after a short break. Professor Tae-ho Chung from Kyung Hee University Law School, Professor Sang Hie Han from Konkuk University Law School, Constitution Researcher at the Constitutional Court Ji-Hyun Kim, Professor Jung-in Yoon from the Korea University Legal Research Institute, Public Relations Officer at the Berlin Criminal Court Justice Lisa Jani, and Constitution Researcher at the German Federal Constitutional Court Dr. Philipp Wittmann shared their thoughts on the presentation. Justice Jani and Dr. Wittmann also elaborated on the ways in which the German Federal Constitutional Court has protected the nation’s democracy and the Constitution through its proceedings.
Finally, there was an hour-long open Q&A session and wrap-up discussion from 5 to 6 p.m. before the Day 1 proceedings were concluded.
On November 7, six Korean participants (including Professor Seung-ju Bang) and two German counterparts engaged in a round-table discussion on “The Independence of Judges and the Judicial Administration.” The Korean speakers addressed the current issue of the Supreme Court corruption scandal, in which a former justice is suspected of having been bribed to intentionally delay a trial and to press other judges to do the same, the potential, or – as many believe – likely, result of which might have generated unfavorable public opinion about the then government. The speakers also discussed the possible actions that should be taken to address valid concerns about the scandal. Dr. Wittman talked about the Distortion of Law Act, which stipulates that judges who commit crimes while in office and thereby fail to uphold justice be punished, as well as how the above-mentioned Korean judicial scandal is viewed in Germany.
All participants at the conference shared fruitful ideas about how judges in Korea can secure their independence from external pressures, with reference to the case of Germany. “Korea is going through a challenging time due to its failures to meet the standards of a democracy operating under the rule of law,” Lawyer Jae-Young Kim said. “The kinds of thoroughgoing judicial reform discussed at this conference will hopefully help the nation overcome these problems.”