When the Ministry of Justice — Republic of Korea invited me to spend a year in Korea lecturing and writing about my jury trial experiences, I was very reluctant. Although fluent in Korean, I wasn’t sure if Koreans would accept me as a Korean, American, or Korean-American. With the support and encouragement of my wife Lina, I started my one year adventure, with my three-year -old son and mother, in a country that I would have grown up in had my parents not immigrated in 1974, just before I was born.
The Ministry of Justice provided housing, three meals a day, and a hefty stipend for my services. Most importantly, they treated me like I was Korean. My first lecture was at the top law school in Korea, Seoul National University (SNU). Because of the lack of legal vocabulary, it took me over 100 hours to prepare my first lecture in Korean. After SNU, I gave a series of lectures to five other top law schools, government officials, and hundreds of Korean Federal Prosecutors. Since Korea is transitioning into a binding jury system, they wanted me to talk about the pros and cons of a jury system and how to strategically prevail in a jury trial.
Towards the end of my journey, the Ministry of Justice requested that I watch Korean advisory-jury trial (jurors only render opinions) and comment on what I observed. To my surprise, I saw some judges attempt to manipulate certain trials by commenting on the evidence through their own questioning. The Ministry of Justice asked me to submit to an interview with the most influential national newspaper exploiting this to the Korean public. I agreed to be part of this type of controversy only if the newspaper agreed to print on my last day in Korea. It was printed and I am now back in Seattle.
Some folks in Korea, and here in Seattle, are not happy about the interview because it could taint the image of Korea and their judiciary. The reason I agreed to expose this type of controversy is because I love Korea and only through controversy can you have change. A change is needed in their judiciary to give some of the power, the judges refuse to relinquish, back to the people so the citizens can be tried by their own citizens and not the government. This is a fundamental principal that our founding fathers implemented into our constitution.
In retrospect, I realize that there are some problems with our criminal justice system here in America, but it is one of the best in the world.