A South Korean lawyer has left the public enraged after her repeated failures to show up for the trials of a case of death by school bullying came to light. Public opinion swayed against her even more after she did not appear at her own court hearing on January 30, KST.
Lawyer Kwon Gyeong Ae is currently on trial for damages filed by the bereaved family of a victim of school violence. The victim’s family claimed that Kwon’s repeated absence in court led to them losing a six-year legal battle for justice for their teenage daughter, who passed away from school bullying.
The case was first revealed to the public in 2023, and after that, the otherwise outspoken Kwon completely disappeared from the public eye. However, she had made a promise to financially compensate the bereaved family for her terrible mistakes. After failing to show up to her own trial, Kwon sent a written statement to the court, claiming that she hadn’t shown up so that the world would remember the victim.
I think a series of incomprehensible accidents and mistakes happened to me so that the world would not forget the death of Ju Won (the victim).
— Kwon Gyeong Ae
In the statement, Kwon also claimed that her callousness at her job was not the reason for the family to lose the case.
Despite her brazen written statement, Kwon’s lawyer reportedly told the victim’s family that the reason she could not appear in court was because of the reporters. Lee Gi Cheol, the victim’s mother, also told the media that Kwon never apologized to her family, nor has she spoken to them directly since the case became publicized.
Kwon was the legal representative of the victim’s family in a civil lawsuit that sought compensation for the death of Ju Won in 2015. They partially won the case in 2019, where the court ordered one of the culprits to pay the family ₩500 million KRW (about $375,000 USD). But in the following three appellate cases, Kwon failed to show up every time. This led to the court overturning the previous ruling since under Article 268 of the Civic Procedure Act, such absences are regarded as intent of not pursuing the suit anymore.
Apart from losing the case, the victim’s family was also forced to bear the legal fees of the trials, as per Korean law. Kwon, in her explanation of the absences, told Lee that the first time she collapsed on her way to court, the second time she had noted down the wrong date, and the third time the judge allegedly told her the wrong date. None of these claims, however, have been verified.
Kwon also refused to make any public apologies to the victim’s family, citing that it would harm her reputation. However, she was suspended from her legal duties on August 12, 2023, by the Korean Bar Association, and the suspension will remain in effect for a year.