Top cop pick stirs up more criticism

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Top cop pick stirs up more criticism

Pressure grew for National Police Agency Commissioner-designate Cho Hyun-oh to resign as bereaved family members of the sailors killed in the Cheonan sinking were the latest to feel insulted by remarks made by the current Seoul police chief.

In March, Cho reportedly said that the media should refrain from reporting too much on the families of the Cheonan victims “who cry and act aggressively like cows and pigs.”

“To become citizens of an advanced nation, they need to know how to mourn in a noble way,” Cho said in a lecture to police officers.

Cho has already been under fire from the opposition Democratic Party for other remarks he made in March in which he said late President Roh Moo-hyun committed suicide because Roh found large slush funds in “borrowed-name” accounts. Those comments have angered Roh family members and supporters.

The March 26 deadly sinking of the navy vessel Cheonan, reportedly by a North Korean torpedo attack, killed 46 South Korean sailors.

The victims’ families held a press conference on Sunday and demanded that Cho withdraw his nomination.

“We felt indescribable fury and devastation by Cho’s remarks,” said Lee In-ok, a spokesman for the families. “We will sue Cho for defamation. Cho’s remarks made us feel deep concerns about the Lee Myung-bak administration and the Grand National Party.”

As the controversy intensified, Cho explained on Saturday that his speech in March was meant to point out that the media’s sensational coverage of the Cheonan families might overshadow the national mourning for the fallen navy sailors. He stressed he had no intention of mocking the families.

Lee In-ok, representative of the Cheonan families, said Cho called him on Sunday and explained that he didn’t mean to belittle the families.

Cho called Lee again yesterday and said he wanted to meet with the families so he could apologize to them. Lee told Cho that he would schedule a meeting after discussing the matter with the families.

Those in political circles, meanwhile, are split over Cho’s potential fate. DP officials yesterday said Cho should be investigated on charges of spreading false facts. They have also urged Cho to voluntarily step down and urged President Lee to drop Cho’s nomination for National Police Agency Commissioner.

“Prosecutors who investigated the Roh bribery case said [on Sunday] that Cho’s remarks were ‘groundless,’ and, therefore, the people will understand only when a probe begins on nominee Cho,” DP Rep. Choi Chul-kook said in a DP lawmakers’ meeting yesterday.

The ruling Grand National Party remained relatively quiet over the issue and reiterated that Cho should be given a chance to explain everything during confirmation hearings slated for Aug. 24-25.

“[The GNP] wouldn’t cover for Cho’s wrongdoings, but it’s difficult to determine whether he’s an appropriate candidate without the hearing,” said GNP spokesman Ahn Hyoung-Hwan.


By Kim Mi-ju [mijnkim@joongang.co.kr]
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