e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the judiciary showed increasing independence. The President appoints the Chief Justice and most justices of the Constitutional Court. Although judges do not receive life appointments, they cannot be fired or transferred for political reasons. The Prosecutor's Office, under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), has shown increased independence and impartiality. Early in the year, the Minister of Justice initiated a new system of appointments and promotions based on merit rather than the previous traditional system based on seniority. Many civic organizations strongly endorsed these changes; however, some members of the opposition criticized them as "political interference." Late in the year, the Prosecutor's Office initiated an investigation into allegations of corruption and illegal campaign financing by both major parties during the 2002 presidential campaign, an investigation that the opposition Grand National Party (GNP) complained was biased.
During the year, one member of the National Assembly lost his seat for violating election law.
Local courts are presided over by judges who render verdicts in all cases. There is no trial by jury. Both defendants and prosecutors can appeal a verdict or a sentence to a district appeals court and to the Supreme Court. Constitutional challenges can be taken to the Constitutional Court.
The Constitution provides defendants with a number of rights in criminal trials, including the presumption of innocence, protection against self-incrimination, freedom from retroactive laws and double jeopardy, the right to a speedy trial, and the right of appeal. Although the Constitution prohibits double jeopardy, the courts have interpreted this provision to mean that a suspect cannot be indicted or punished more than once for the same crime. However, the prosecution can appeal a not guilty verdict or a sentence it considers excessively lenient; thus, a suspect may in fact be tried more than once for the same crime. When a person is detained, the initial trial must be completed within 6 months of arrest. These rights generally were observed. Trials were open to the public, but a judge could restrict attendance if he believed spectators might disrupt the proceedings.
Judges generally allowed considerable scope for examination of witnesses by both the prosecution and defense. Cases involving national security and criminal matters were tried by the same courts. Although few convictions were overturned, appeals often resulted in reduced sentences. Death sentences were appealed automatically.
It was difficult to estimate the number of political prisoners because it was not clear whether particular persons were arrested for merely exercising the rights of free speech or association, or were detained for committing acts of violence or espionage. A human rights group reported that, as of September, there were 109 political prisoners, including 37 students, 49 labor leaders, and 23 other dissidents. However, this group's definition of a political prisoner often included all persons imprisoned for politically motivated acts, including violations of the NSL, the Assembly and Demonstration Act, or the Trade Union Act, and for violence or interference with official duties in the course of demonstrations or strikes. Typically, on several occasions during the year, the Government grants special pardons or reinstatements of civil rights to persons, including some imprisoned for violations of the NSL or for engaging in violence during labor demonstrations.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The Government generally respected the integrity of the home and family. The Anti-Wiretap Law and the law to reform the NIS have curbed government surveillance of civilians, including political dissidents. The Anti-Wiretap Law lays out broad conditions under which the Government may monitor telephone calls, mail, and other forms of communication for up to 2 months in criminal investigations and 4 months in national security cases. Some human rights groups argued that illegal wiretapping, shadowing, and surveillance photography still occurred. They asserted that the lack of an independent body to investigate whether police have employed illegal wiretaps hindered the effectiveness of the Anti-Wiretap Law. They called for either tightening or abolishing a provision in the existing law that allows government officials to obtain retroactive judicial permission to monitor a conversation in the event of an emergency.
The Government continued to require some released prisoners to report regularly to the police under the Social Surveillance Law.
The NSL forbids citizens from listening to North Korean radio in their homes or reading books published in North Korea if the Government determines that they are doing so to help North Korea. However, this prohibition is rarely enforced, and the viewing of North Korean satellite telecasts in private homes is legal. The Government also allows the personal perusal of North Korean books, music, television programs, and movies as a means to promote understanding and reconciliation with North Korea. North Korean books were sold openly in a few shops. Student groups made credible claims that government informants were posted on university campuses.
The Korean Bar Association alleged that police installation of closed-circuit television cameras, as a crime prevention measure in Gangnam district, was an illegal infringement on privacy. Residents generally were supportive of the measure and believed it had reduced crime in the district.