A society that doesn’t appreciate the value of conscience, but conscience is sturdier than fate

Disclaimer: The following is a totally unauthoritative personal translation of an article appeared in <CBS NocutNews, "Reporter Note" by Sang-Wook Byeon> under the Korean title ‘양심의 가치를 모르는 사회, 양심은 운명보다 견고해‘ on Feb. 11, 2014, commenting on the innocence sentence to former Seoul Regional Police Agency chief Yong-Pan Kim against the charge of the violation of Public Office Election Law, Police Officers Act, misfeasance, and obstruction of exercise of right. He had been suspected of interfering with last year’s presidential election by obstructing police investigation on NIA’s illegal involvement on presidential election and thus played partially in favor of then ruling party presidential candidate, Geun-Hye Park. All rights regarding this post stay with the author(s) of the original article or with <CBS NocutNews> and this post will be scrapped immediately at their request. In the post, I tried to match the English translation of names of people / institution(s) / position(s) to authentic one(s) as much as possible but, unfortunately, some of them still can be different. Original article of this post (in Korean) can be found in the link above.

CBS NocutNews Sang-Wook Byeon CBS노컷뉴스 변상욱 대기자

Senior Reporter Sang-Wook Byeon’s ‘Reporter Note’ delivers sharp criticisms to things unjust.

Sentencing trial of Mr. Yong-Pan Kim, former chief of Seoul Regional Police Agency, at Seoul Regional Court on last 6th. He was charged with the violation of Public Office Election Law, Police Officers Act, misfeasance, and obstruction of exercise of right. The ruling, innocence.

The bench sentenced so claiming that evidences for those three charges were insufficient and striking down the testimony of whistle-blower Ms. Eun-Hee Kwon, chief of criminal investigation at Songpa Police Station (then chief of criminal investigation at Suseo Police Station), untrustworthy. According to the bench, contrary to that of Ms. Eun-Hee Kwon, testimonies of 17 police officers were identical and so were more credible. “The only strong evidence that can support the charge that ‘the accused Yong-Pan Kim announced false investigation results and tried to decline or delay the return of material analysis results under the intention of interfering with (presidential) election and covering up the real facts’ is mainly the testimony of Eun-Hee Kwon. But most of Eun-Hee Kwon’s testimony was not supported by objective facts or the testimonies of 17 other police officers that were involved in the investigation. To the contrary, other witnesses testified compatibly with each other.”

Swallows do not make spring. Neither do azalea

To this court’s judgement, two people raised objections.

The first was Mr. Ji-Moon Lee who came out of the curtain of silence and announced that, at the 14th general election in 1992, the election campaign and absentee ballots within army barracks were all fraudulent and rigged. Mr. Ji-Moon Lee, then army first lieutenant, testifies that the Ministry of National Defense then claimed like this. “The 500 troops in the first lieutenant Ji-Moon Lee’s regiment all testified ‘We all voted fair and justice. First lieutenant Ji-Moon Lee’s claims are lies’ in unison."

Who would say something that’s closer to the truth, the one who will shout out at the face of the fate that will be thrown away from his organization and go through dangers and hardships all through life or the one who will be still in the organization and be commanded by the same superiors?

Mr. Ji-Moon Lee points out like this. “It makes me suspect that the court neglected the nature of whistleblowing or made a political judgement by thinking more of the people who were not free from the strict top down order of rank or even could be the accomplice than the whistleblower who made her move at the face of disadvantages on her position or even retaliations only because they outnumbered and by turning down chief Kwon’s claims. They simply played the number game."

Then, let’s think about the opinion of lawyer Ju-Min Park. He is the lawyer of Jong-Nam Lee who set himself on fire on the flyover near Seoul Station demanding special prosecution on NIA interference of presidential election and Mdm. President’s voluntary resignation. Lawyer Park criticizes the court that they do not see overall flow of events in the presidential election interference case of NIA but divide them into pieces and then examines the pieces separately. Simply put, it’s like this. ‘Is there any clear evidence that this was to interfere with presidential election? All not so sure? Then, throw it away. What about this? Is it sure thing? Also unsure? Then, throw it away again. … If you do this again and again, then nothing can be certain.

But, if you follow those suspicions under the question why they all happened one after the other, you may get to a totally different conclusion. When one says you see a swallow but it’s not spring, you may not say anything to it. When one says you see trees are in bud but it’s not spring either, you may not say anything to it as well. But, if you see swallows in the sky and trees in bud, it must be spring not winter.

Lawyer Park, like former first lieutenant Ji-Moon Lee, claims that the testimony of chief Eun-Hee Kwon, as a whistleblowing, is of totally different significant compared to those of other policemen since ‘they are in the same boat with the accused.’ ‘How much truth will you get from them even if we ask ‘was it like what she said?’,’ he says since they could not or cannot say ‘yes, it was like that’ since they are in the same organization.

A society that appreciates the conscience

At this, I recall Alberto J Mora who was awarded with the Jonh F Kennedy Profile in Courage award in 2006. He was a General Counsel of the Navy. But he raised questions on illegal inspection and close-to-torture physical abuses to suspects during US government’s ‘war on terror’ in the aftermath of September 11 terrorist attack. ‘This kind of misfeasance by our government can degrade the value and belief of America and damage national interest,’ he claimed. He fiercely persuaded his organization and struggled to change it but confronted with collective organizational backlash and check. He eventually left Navy.

During the war on terrorism period post-September 11 terrorist attack, divulging this kind of mortifying remark would have put him under the risk of being branded as a traitor or a terrorist sympathizer but he wouldn’t backed down. Later, US government’s discriminating inspection and search against colored people was exposed in documentary films. It’s forced detention and physical abuse of innocent suspects, POW camps at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba or in Iraq, and secret prison in East Europe or Afghanistan were also exposed resulting in the demise of its position as the global police country. This was also why its allies withdrew support or abstained from military engagement recently in Middle East, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

America, a country of a jumble of races, brief history, and capitalistic society obsessed with harsh competition and profitability. Where does its power come from? Simple. From incessant innovations from inside through free communication. American society recognizes the value of criticism from within organization itself and thus flourished unrelating innovations; they eventually bring in healthy development and promote competitiveness edge. They know capitalism is impossible and thus American capitalism cannot be the global standard without the confidence of tax payers, consumers, and investors. For it, they should improve corporate transparency. That’s why the First Amendment emphasizes the freedom of speech. Legislation on whistleblower protection has been improved in the same vein. America enacted the whistleblower protection law for employees in public sector in late 1970s. Later, it was expanded to protect non-government sector whistleblowers in 1989. Then, they established relief organizations in case whistleblowers were retaliated. But still, corruptions are concealed and whistleblowing fades out when political force or military intervenes.

But, American power is the tradition of freedom and innovation. After all, they awarded Alberto J Mora the honor of life with courage and spread his spirit to everyone.

Sometimes, human conscience is sturdier than fate. Only a society that recognizes the value of conscience can get over the gusty wave of history. What do we believe acting like this?

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