The Challenges and Outlook of Trial by Jury in Korea

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Kim, Junho

Issue Date
BK 21 law
Journal of Korean Law, Vol.8 No.2, pp. 455-475
democracyjury systemtrial by juryMeiji ConstitutionTaisho DemocracyJury ActJudicial Reformcivil participation in criminal trialsmajority rule
As of January 1, 2008, a system for civil participation in criminal trials was introduced and enforced in Korea. This system is of particular importance as it is the first jury system in the history of Korean criminal justice. The jury system of Korea shares, prima facie, certain similarities with the prewar jury system of Japan: it exclusively deals with felony cases, allows majority verdicts, and does not recognize the binding effect of the verdict. Based on such a simple comparison one might predict for the jury system of Korea to fail to gain the support of the people, as the Japanese jury system did before.

This article, however, takes a different outlook. The fate of the Korean jury system might prove to be brighter than that of the Japanese jury system for several reasons. Firstly, the circumstances surrounding Korean criminal justice today are fairly different from pre-war Japan, where militarism was on the rise. Secondly, the simple majority vote produces no theoretical issues, as it honors the self-determinations of the largest number of people. Thirdly, a sense of equality and a refusal to recognize privileged classes are deeply ingrained among the Korean public. Fourthly, the introduction of the jury system in Korea was a bottom-up reformation implementing the wishes of the public toward the democratization of justice. Lastly, Koreas introduction of the jury system was implemented concurrently with the reform of the Criminal Procedure Code, which enhances the principle of oral proceedings. Now the challenge at hand is to build an extensive consensus and respect among the people for jury verdicts. The decisions and choices of the jury deserve respect just as much as those of the judges. To this end, the judicature must make efforts to enhance its democratic legitimacy as well.
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College of Law/Law School (법과대학/대학원)The Law Research Institute (법학연구소) Journal of Korean Law (JKL)Journal of Korean Law Volume 08 Number 1/2 (2008)
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