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S. Korea ex-chief justice arrested in power abuse scandal

Yang Sung Tae, former chief justice of South Korea's Supreme Court, speaks to reporters in Seoul on Jan. 11, 2019, before being questioned at the prosecutors' office over allegations that he used his power to lobby the previous administration of President Park Geun Hye. (Kyodo)

SEOUL (Kyodo) -- A former South Korean chief justice was arrested early Thursday on charges that he abused his authority to influence trials as a political tool to lobby the previous government, Yonhap News Agency reported.

Yang Sung Tae, who was the country's Supreme Court chief from 2011 to 2017, is alleged to have misused his position to lobby the Park Geun Hye administration for the establishment of a new appeals court.

He is also accused of purposely delaying a top court ruling on a controversial wartime forced labor case involving a Japanese firm at a time when the Park administration sought friendly ties with Japan.

Yang has denied any wrongdoing, according to media reports.

A South Korean court summoned him on Wednesday to determine whether to issue a warrant for his arrest as sought by prosecutors. He is the first former chief justice to be interrogated by prosecutors as a suspect.

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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