Prosecutorial probe for Cho?Rep. Sim Sang-jeung, chairwoman of the left-wing minority Justice Party, said the public anger and disappointment over the allegations over special treatment of the daughter of Justice minister nominee Cho Kuk go beyond legal judgment. Cho and the Blue House, which has come to the defense of the former presidential senior secretary for civil affairs, denied any wrongdoing. But one cannot become a justice minister on grounds that he had not broken any laws. Law obligation is fundamental for the chief of the Ministry of Justice who is responsible for upholding law and order in Korean society. The office requires exceptional ethical standards and dignity.
The allegations against Cho not only question his morality but also make him a subject for a prosecutorial probe. There are at least five charges against him, including in relation to a real estate deal under a borrowed name, debt write-off, suspicious holdings in a private equity fund and defamation.
How can a justice minister do his job and spearhead judiciary reforms when he faces a prosecutorial probe? His daughter could face a separate investigation for illegal college entry if misdeeds are found in the way her name was listed as the first author in a published medical research paper she contributed to during a two-week internship program as a high school student. Dankook University and the Korean Society of Pathologists have launched separate investigations on how her name got on the paper while the Korean Academy of Medical Sciences summoned the head professor for questioning. Cho’s brother is accused of having pocketed 100 million won each from two teachers who got jobs at the high school under the Woongdong Academy owned by the Cho family but where he had no title. No other ministerial candidate has faced so many corruption charges.
Still, the Blue House remains steadfast behind Cho, and the ruling party is vehemently defending him. The Blue House suddenly required real names for the online petition on its web page demanding the cancellation of Cho’s daughter’s degrees. The Democratic Party (DP) held a convention vowing to defend Cho, claiming the attack against him was a challenge to the governing power.
Korea University students who had planned a rally demanding an investigation into Cho’s daughter’s entry to their school suddenly cancelled it. But Cho’s problem cannot go away no matter how the ruling forces endeavor to fight it. If the appointment is pushed ahead, the impetus on judiciary reform would lose steam. The toll on public confidence is already evident. Negative reviews have outpaced positive ones for the president, and the DP’s approval rating slipped below 40 percent. The Blue House and DP must let go of Cho and replace him with a figure of morality and dignity.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 23, Page 30