South Korean Judges Study Oklahoma Justice

Tuesday, January 6th 2009, 5:23 pm
By: News On 6

By Lori Fullbright, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- A group of South Korean judges is in Tulsa, learning about American courts.  They toured the Tulsa County Courthouse and learned how a jury system of justice works.

Many Americans take a jury system for granted in America.  It allows ordinary citizens to decide civil and criminal cases and is a core part of living in a democracy.  South Korea just started using juries last year and the judges visiting Tulsa had plenty of questions about how it works.

These South Korean judges are no strangers to courtrooms, but they are rookies when it comes to selecting, educating and managing juries.  Until last year, judges decided everything about criminal and civil cases, guilt, innocence and punishment.  But, now they're using juries.

They have begun with only criminal cases and only four types:  rape, bank robbery, arson and capital murder.

Their citizens struggle with some of the same issues our juries do.

"Perhaps since it's very early stage, hard to relay all necessary information about what is allowed and not allowed in a courtroom and also, it is difficult for people not to be involved emotionally, which jurors must be," said Seoul Eastern Division Presiding Judge Eunae Lee, through interpreter Monica Song.

Judge Lee says citizens like the democratic idea of not relying solely on judges for decisions, but are also apprehensive about peers grasping complex cases and judging fairly.

The tour group sat in on cases and had many questions about starting an entire new system of justice from scratch.

"I'd like to learn how in Tulsa, Oklahoma, juries are selected and how the court system communicates with individual jurors so we would have more efficient and productive trial system in Korea," said Seoul Eastern Division Presiding Judge Eunae Lee, through interpreter Monica Song.

The judges were grateful for the hospitality and the information and say they will incorporate ideas from Tulsa when they return home.

Because the jury system is so new in South Korea, one American problem they have not encountered yet is citizens who try everything to get out of jury duty.

The group makes the 13 hour flight home on Wednesday.