Korean Law Demystified!

The President’s Duty to Stay Neutral During Elections (in Korea)

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Bill Maher recently interviewed President Obama. (The interview took place a few days before Election Day.) During one part of the interview, President Obama explains to people/viewers why it’s important to vote for Clinton. This would not be lawful here (in South Korea) because all public officials/employees have a duty to refrain from trying to (unreasonably) influence elections via publicly endorsing/supporting any specific party/candidate.

Public Official Election Act (공직선거법)

Article 9 (Responsibilities of Public Officials for Neutrality)
(1) A public official or a person who is required to maintain political neutrality (including within an agency or organization) shall not exercise any unreasonable influence over the election or perform any act likely to have an effect on the election result.
(2) Where it is deemed that any violation of this Act is committed, the public prosecutor (including the military prosecutor) or national police officer (including prosecutory investigators and military judicial policemen) shall crack down on and investigate the violation immediately and fairly.

– Translation by KLRI (Korea Legislation Research Institute)

This was primarily why the late former President Roh Moo-hyun was impeached back in 2004. During one general election, he publicly urged people to vote for the then-ruling party (열린우리당). But the Constitutional Court ultimately decided not to remove him from office because his transgressions weren’t “grave.” What about this time? What about President Park?

I would say removal is actually possible this time. Roh’s charges were “peanuts” (to borrow Trump’s words) compared to what President Park is currently charged with. The problem is how quickly can the Constitutional Court render a decision. By January 31st is out of the question. By March 13, maybe. If they were really keen on doing so. (FYI: The Constitutional Court is to render a decision within 180 days, but this is not obligatory. Some scholars do feel this is a sort of case that would take 180+.)

Note: In Korea, the Constitutional Court exclusively reviews the constitutionality of laws and government measures/inaction, etc. It’s convenient to think of it as playing a specialized judicial role.


“… First they said, everybody said, except me btw… that Donald Trump when he talks about running for President, oh he’s just saying that… Just saying that, because he wants to, you know, burnish his brand and get people to buy his books or whatever… Okay. Then he announced he was gonna run. They said, well~ sure he’s a reality show star and people think that’s interesting but he’s not gonna get any votes… Then he got votes. And then they said he’s not gonna win any primaries~ Then he won primaries. Then they said but he’s not gonna win the nomination~ Then he won the nomination. And now these same people are saying he’s not gonna win the election??”

– Bill Maher (on Nov. 4, 2016)

He was explaining (on his show) why he’d had a couple of drinks. You can listen to his show here –> http://tunein.com/radio/Real-Time-with-Bill-Maher-p30096/ I’ve listened (off and on) from around 2005. It’s useful because I can get U.S. news in a fun way.

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