Stacking the justice ministry

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Stacking the justice ministry

The Blue House has leaked the idea of tapping Cho Kuk, senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, as the next justice minister in a reshuffle slated for late next month. Although there is still time before a decision is made, aides must have dropped the information to reporters to test the waters. Given President Moon Jae-in’s steadfast confidence in Cho, his move to the cabinet may be realized regardless of his unpopularity with the main opposition.

The Blue House believes the president can achieve his long-desired prosecutorial reform by naming Cho the judiciary head.

But the choice must have public support. Cho has been under fire for many controversies and should have been dismissed long ago. Under Cho, whose responsibility also includes recruitments and appointments, 11 figures at the vice-ministerial level had to be replaced or resign from office over the last two years. As many as 15 ministerial-level officials started in their positions without endorsement from the legislative questioning their eligibility. That number exceeds the 10 ministers who took up office without legislative blessing under former president Park Geun-hye. The Democratic Party, then the main opposition, lambasted the civil affairs secretary under Park for this. Five secretaries had to be replaced. But Cho, who has broken that record, has kept his seat.

Cho also neglected his other duty of keeping an eye on the president so that he does not overstretch his authority. The president ordered the prosecution to reopen old cases of sex scandals involving figures in the past administration in March. Cho did not stop, but actually reportedly encouraged the president to do so.

As result, the opposition is mulling over pressing charges against the president for abusing his power after the reinvestigation failed to disclose new findings. Much of the president’s follies are thanks to Cho poorly aiding the president.

His post is also responsible for upholding disciplinary order in public office. But slack management has been exposed after a member of a special inspection team under his office blew the whistle on civilian surveillance and spying on executives of state enterprises who were named by the former president. Cho has never apologized for the controversy around him. He went on attacking the main opposition on social media and only met with left-leaning online media outlets. He can hardly persuade the opposition to muster support for prosecutorial reform.

Moon has named Yoon Seok-youl, who led the clampdown on “past ills” under former governments, as the prosecutor general of the Seoul district office.

The nation’s judicial posts will be dominated by left-leaning figures if Cho is named the justice minister. Cho must stop stirring controversy and should go back to teaching, the profession that he does best.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 27, Page 30
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