Although, on the face of it, it appears that the the resignation was due to his poor evaluation result, his fellow judges and activist groups alleged that the judiciary's intention was to gain the favor of the President by punishing Seo, who had made the headlines for lampooning him. They also added that the review process was not transparent enough and Seo had actually scored well enough to be re-appointed.
February 17, 2012, was Judge Seo's last day in office. About a hundred people gathered in front of the Justice building to throw him a small resignation ceremony. Seo's support group, “The Eyes of the People”, gave Seo a new ‘People's Judge’ robe as a way of showing that even though he failed to get re-appointed, the public acknowledged him as a judge.
On December 7, 2011, Seo's highly sarcastic post [ko] regarding the President (which is extremely difficult to translate, given the puns and hidden context) created quite a bit of commotion in Twittersphere. It can roughly be translated into something like ‘Don't get intimidated. Or his Highness will give you a big yeot (taffy)” [meaning that the President will cause people great problems. In modern times the Korean phrase "eat yeot" (엿 먹어라) has a vulgar meaning, comparable to using the f-word in English].
It was not good timing, as it came amidst the free trade deal with the United States. Other judges too, turned vocal and began to post a similar lampooning messages on their social media accounts. However, conservative media blew Seo's case out of proportion and this one post made such a big headline, that Seo was reprimanded by the Supreme Court some weeks later.
Now, after his recent controversial post on Facebook, he has failed to get re-appointed, something which rarely happens to judges in South Korea. (According to one local news report, out of all the judges who held post from 1988, there are only five judges, including Seo, who did not get re-appointed after their first ten year term ended.)
학교든 직장이든 사람을 내보내려면 평가결과를 알려주어야 함에도 대법원은 근무평가를 통보하지도 않고 서기호 판사의 재임용을 거부. 사법부 스스로 얼마나 불합리하고 비상식적인지를 보여준 것.
저는 쫓겨났다고 생각하지 않습니다. 10년 담임제 임기를 마치고 잠시 떠나는 것이라 생각합니다. 저의 재임용 탈락은 부당하고 위법입니다. 받아들일 수 없습니다. 소송을 벌일 겁니다 – 서기호 판사 : 꼭 이기시길 !
@jonghee1 이제 국민 대표판사 1호가 탄생했지요. 서기호 판사님, 꼭 복직하시길…
His acquaintance and supporters have even set up a special twitter account @babopansa to consolidate and retweet links about Mr.Seo and to rally people for protests and sign online petitions. This tweet [ko] is from Seo's fellow judge:
이제는 법원이 잘못된 길을 간다고 생각이 들 때, 그 말을 하려고 한다. 그 동안 침묵하는 다수였으나 소리 내는 모난 돌이 정을 맞는다 해도 이제는 침묵하지 않겠다. via 남원지원 김영훈 판사
This tweet [ko] urged people to sign online petitions:
[ON국민절찬서명중입니다] http://bit.ly/x2Jo3Q 1. 서기호 판사의 복직! 2. 정치권력개입NO! 독립과 개혁! 3. 양승태 대법원장 사퇴! #99% 이시죠?트위터와페이북계정으로서명할수있습니다!
Another tweet [ko] notified a special (Catholic) Mass that will be held to support Seo.
‘서기호 판사(분도)와 사법정의를 위한 미사'가 19일(일요일) 오후 2시 가톨릭청년회관에서 진행됩니다. 공지영 작가도 참석할 예정이라네요. 일정 확인해보시고, RT 부탁드리겠습니다.
Things are heating up also within the justice community. According to one news report, some are predicting that the court's decision to drop Seo, may provoke mass-scale protests among young judges.