Jul 23, 2007
Polygraphs in Korea
▶The lie detector was invented by Italian physiologist Cesare Lombroso in 1885. When a subject is asked difficult questions, the machine measures signs of stress in body movements, breathing, sweat, blood pressure and heartbeat. John Larson, a senior police inspector in California, used the machine for real investigations in 1921. He later confessed, "If you gathered them together, five experts wouldn't be able to reach an agreement on how to interpret the results of a polygraph test." Essentially, he was saying, the lie detector is unreliable.
▶The only territories where courts accept the results of polygraph tests as evidence are Israel, Japan and the U.S. state of New Mexico. In 2005, the Korean Supreme Court denied the use of prosecutors' evidence based on polygraph tests in an automobile hit-and-run case. The court ruled, "If a person experiences a consistent, 100-percent psychological change when he or she lies, if the psychological change causes 100-percent physiological responses, and if you can be definitely sure, based on such physiological responses, that the suspect has lied, then we can accept it as evidence. But we don't think it possible to expect such results with the current level of technology."
▶Prosecutors are reportedly considering using a polygraph machine in their investigation of Grand National Party presidential contender Lee Myung-bak for his suspected possession of property in Dogok-dong, Seoul under borrowed names. Ex-GNP chairman Suh Chung-won claimed that former chairman of POSCO Kim Man-je said that the property in question actually belonged to Lee. Kim has denied having said this. It's quite a challenge for prosecutors. Even if they do use the polygraph machine on the politicians, it would be difficult to judge the results. Regardless of what the machine shows, the event will surely be permanently recorded in the history of Korean politics.
This column was contributed by Chosun Ilbo in-house columnist Moon Gab-sik.