|From left are former Supreme Court Chief Justice Yang Sung-tae, Ko Young-han and Park Byong-dae, who were former justices. / Yonhap|
By Kang Seung-woo
Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Yang Sung-tae was indicted Monday on 47 charges stemming from his alleged involvement in a massive judiciary power abuse scandal.
The Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office's decision to put Yang on trial came as it announced the interim results of its investigation into the nation-rattling allegations. The 71-year-old was detained Jan. 24, eight months after prosecutors launched their investigation.
Yang, who headed the top court from 2011 to 2017, is the first-ever former top court chief in the Korean judiciary's 71-year history to face an indictment on criminal charges.
He is accused of using high-profile trials as bargaining chips in dealings with the 2013-17 Park Geun-hye administration for the establishment of a de facto Second Supreme Court.
Prosecutors allege he had officials at the National Court Administration (NCA) come up with detailed plans to influence trials that potentially had high political significance for the former president. The NCA is the top court's administrative body.
According to the prosecution, the 47 charges against Yang include delaying a definitive court ruling on wartime labor conscripts' compensation suits filed against Japanese firms.
Prosecutors accuse Yang and his officials of exerting influence to put off the deliberation on purpose in order to curry favor with the former president, who was seeking better relations with the Japanese government.
However, since the 2017 inauguration of the Moon Jae-in government, the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the victims in two cases.
In addition, he is also faced with charges of unfair treatment of judges put on a "blacklist" for having differing political views; interference in the dissolution of the leftist Unified Progressive Party; the illegal collection of confidential documents from the Constitutional Court; and attempting to cover up a former senior judge's corruption.
Yang has strongly denied the accusations during questioning, claiming he did not know about his working-level staff's wrongdoings and arguing that some of the charges were not an abuse of power but an exercise of his proper right as head of the top court.
Also on Monday, prosecutors indicted two other retired top court justices ― Park Byong-dae and Ko Young-han ― for their alleged involvement in the case. Both led the NCA when Yang was at the helm. They will stand trial without physical detention, as a local court earlier turned down the prosecution's request for arrest warrants.
Park and Ko, along with Lim Jong-hun, a former NCA deputy head who is already in detention and facing about 30 charges, are suspected of playing important roles in pushing ahead with Yang's plans.
The prosecution said it will soon decide whether to press charges against other judges allegedly involved in the scandal.