Can judges tweet?

Controversy over judges and social networking in South Korea

Panellists for the second part of the forum – Lee Bum-jun, Lee Hun, Kang Min-gu, Noh Dong-il, Lee Sang-won and Ryu Je-sung(from the left) (Photo: Kris Min)

Judge Seo Ki-ho of the Seoul Northern District Court aroused controversy when he posted disapproving words about President Lee Myung-bak on his social networking site. The Supreme Court’s personnel committee assessed him as “unfit” and made the final decision not to reappoint him.

This sparked a heated debate on the use of SNS. Is it a public domain where public officeholders such as judges are required to remain politically neutral or a private one where they can freely express their personal political views? Judicial Informationization Research Community hosted a forum on 10 February, “Court, Judges and Social Network”.

After the welcome address of Roh Tae-ak the President of the Society, Judge Lee Jang-hyung of Changwon District Court gave a presentation on the current situation of the use of SNS. According to his research, the most favourite SNS of Korean judges is Facebook and most of them opened their Facebook accounts in 2010. Social networking sites are still a new concept and there is some confusion about what the appropriate use and procedure should be.

Lee Ji-sun giving a presentation at the 1st part of the forum (Photo: Kris Min)

Lee Ji-sun, CEO of MediaU gave another presentation on ‘Recipe for Delicious SNS’. She said that a growing trend towards SNS would be impossible to avoid and quoted Mark Zuckerberg’s letter to investors, “by simply making communication more efficient, the inventions led to a complete transformation of many important parts of society.”

The second part of the forum was a group discussion moderated by Kang Min-koo, Presiding Judge of Seoul High Court. Panellists included Noh Dong-il, Professor of Kyung Hee University, Ryu Je-sung, Member of Lawyers for a Democratic Society, Lee Bum-jun, Legal Affairs Writer of the Kyunghyang Shinmun and Lee Hun, Member of The Lawyers for Citizens.

Noh Dong-il giving a presentation at the 2nd part of the forum (Photo: Kris Min)

Professor Noh explained in detail US guidelines on the use of SNS for reference. In America, each state has own standards of judicial conduct. A judge in Las Vegas was fired because of his inappropriate remarks on MySpace whereas a judge in Georgia was fired since he exchanged messages with a defendant. American Bar Association published a paper in 2011 with a somewhat scary title, “Ethical Issues in Cyberspace: Using Social Networking Sites without Getting Disbarred”.


Lee Miyoung-hiyoun

One Response to Can judges tweet?

  1. Robert Mitchell 12 February , 2012 at 1:00 am

    Great post. I will read your posts frequently. Added you to the RSS reader.

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