Apologize for your suspicious pastThe Minister of Justice oversees law enforcement activities to defend law and order under a free democracy. The office even has the authority to impose the death penalty. Therefore, the person with the title is required to have strong morale, be fair and committed to the nation.
Cho Kuk, who has been nominated for the position, has come under fire by opposition lawmakers for his involvement in the Korean Socialist Workers’ Alliance. “I am neither proud nor shameful of the past,” he said. Conservative parties are attacking Cho’s “ambiguous” defense for an outlawed organization. Liberty Korea Party (LKP) Chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn, a former prosecutor, reminded people that the organization had plotted an armed rebellion and even made weapons. Hwang argued that a person involved in such an organization is not fit for the justice ministerial post.
In 1993, Cho was convicted of working for the association as the chief of socialist doctrine research. He was sentenced to one year in jail with a stay of execution for two years. The court ruled that the alliance’s activities and slogans of creating a socialist state led by workers went against the South Korean constitution. His conviction cannot be pardoned by romanticizing his involvement as a “passion” to defend democracy against military regimes.
Law enforcement could become questionable if someone who was active in an anti-state organization becomes the head of the justice office without clear explanation of his position in the past. His past must be clarified for the country’s future. Discipline of various institutions are shaking after the government has refused to decisively pinpoint North Korea as South Korea’s enemy state. It cannot be good that figures who had been convicted for challenging the country’s order and identity are seated in senior government posts.
When Hwang was nominated as justice minister of the conservative Park Geun-hye administration, then-opposition Democratic Party (DP) dug up his past as a prosecutor on anti-government activities and questioned his sense of fairness. Cho could also come under same questioning for the opposite reason. Cho and the ruling party must not shrug off the criticism simply as mudslinging from the opposition. Cho must become free of past suspicions before being seated as the position guarding free democracy laws and order.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 15, Page 26