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Politics

South Korea arrests ex-chief justice over delay in wartime labor trials

Yang Sung-tae allegedly maneuvered to deliver verdicts favorable to previous government

Former South Korean Supreme Court Chief Justice Yang Sung-tae appears at court on Jan. 23 to attend a hearing for reviewing the prosecution's detention warrant at the Seoul Central District Court.   © Reuters

SEOUL -- South Korean authorities on Thursday arrested retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Yang Sung-tae over his suspected involvement in delaying deliberations on wartime labor litigation in order to win the favor of then-President Park Geun-hye.

The unprecedented arrest of the former chief justice was for allegedly orchestrating the delay at a time when Park had sought improved relations with Japan. Yang also allegedly pressured judges in charge of trials to hand down verdicts favorable to Park in order to gain her approval for establishing a separate court of appeals, the Yonhap News Agency reported.

Prosecutors had sought an arrest warrant for Yang for his alleged abuse of power, and the Seoul Central District Court issued the writ early Thursday morning.

Yang retired in 2017. The Supreme Court ruled in October 2018 on a wartime labor damages suit against Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal, upholding a lower court's decision in favor of the plaintiffs. Shortly thereafter, it made a similar decision in a case involving Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

President Moon Jae-in implied in a Jan. 10 news conference that the investigation of Yang was hampering the government's efforts to decide its stance on issues related to wartime history.

Yang denies any wrongdoing, according to Yonhap.

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