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Politics

South Korea's ex-Supreme Court chief indicted in power abuse scandal

Former South Korean Supreme Court Chief Justice Yang Sung-tae sits before a judgment at the Seoul court in 2016 (Yonhap via AP) 

SEOUL (Kyodo) -- A former Supreme Court chief justice was indicted Monday on charges that he abused his authority to influence trials as a political tool to lobby the previous government.

Yang Sung Tae, Supreme Court chief from 2011 to 2017, is the first former or sitting South Korean chief justice to be indicted.

He was placed in pretrial detention on Jan. 24 after being questioned several times by the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office.

The 71-year-old is alleged to have misused his position to lobby the office of then President Park Geun Hye for the establishment of a new appeals court.

He is also accused of delaying top-court rulings on controversial wartime forced labor cases involving Japanese firms, at a time when the Park administration was seeking friendly ties with Japan.

The Supreme Court eventually ruled on the wartime labor case in October, upholding a lower court ruling that ordered Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. to pay four South Korean plaintiffs 100 million won ($88,000) each in compensation for forced labor.

The decision and subsequent rulings against Japanese firms in South Korean courts over similar wartime labor cases have drawn criticism from the Japanese government, chilling ties between the two countries.

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