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South Korea, Japan and the Jury System

The jury system is a fundamental aspect of America's legal framework, but in other countries... not so much. That's starting to change, however, in places like South Korea and Japan. This February, South Korea held its first-ever jury trial, in the case of a 27-year-man charged with assault and trespass.

Law professor Thaddeus Hoffmeister writes in the National Law Journal:

The questions on the minds of those following the trial in Taegu both locally and internationally are: Why the sudden interest in juries, which have been around for centuries? And will jury verdicts be as readily accepted as those rendered by judges?

Hoffmeister offers two possible explanations for the experiment. First, the influence of the United States on South Korea -- both from its decades-long military presence in the country and its position since the end of the Cold War as lone superpower -- has prompted social changes in the country that make it ready for public involvement in trials. Second, and perhaps more widely applicable, he suggests that "authoritarian countries or those with fledgling democracies see juries as a way to foster stronger democratic values."

Brendon Carr, an American lawyer in Seoul who writes the Korea Law Blog, agrees with Hoffmeister's view that "the biggest hurdle will be educating and preparing the country as a whole for those occasional verdicts that run contrary to the values and beliefs of Korean society."

South Korea's neighbor Japan is also working on bringing back its jury system in 2009, after a 65-year hiatus. There too the debate on whether the country will accept the system -- and whether or not juries are a good thing to begin with -- has been waged for a few years now. But in terms of cultural familiarity with the American jury system, the young in Japan should be ahead of the curve. "Perfect Prosecutor," yet another spin-off of the extremely popular "Phoenix Wright" video game series about a fictional lawyer, is coming soon.

Posted by John Bringardner on April 28, 2008 at 07:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)


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