A one-man showJustice minister nominee Cho Kuk called a press conference at the National Assembly after the outlook for his confirmation hearing became murky due to wrangling by rivaling parties over the list of people being summoned to the hearing. The marathon press conference that lasted more than 11 hours and was streamed live on online platforms acted as a kind of self-organized hearing for the nominee to directly appeal to the people and seek their understanding.
The opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) proposed holding the confirmation hearing later this week by deciding to not summoning Cho’s wife and daughter. Still, the ruling Democratic Party (DP) refused to comply and instead hurriedly arranged a press conference for Cho.
It was a one-man show. Cho prepared a strong defense for himself, making the most of his time in front of the cameras. He gave 10-minute explanations for a myriad of allegations about the Woongdong School Foundation that his mother headed. Unlike a legislative hearing where lawmakers can cut off a lengthy answer from the candidate they question, Cho was able to fully explain himself through the conference. When he pleaded with the media to leave his daughter alone, he said in a teary voice that his daughter called him up in fear after journalists pounded on the door of her apartment where she lives alone.
He weaseled around sensitive issues. He claimed he did not know how his daughter became the first author to a medical research paper, nor how she received a scholarship from the alumni while attending a graduate school of Seoul National University. He also insisted that he was not aware of the nature of the private equity fund his family put their entire fortune in.
There is a limit to what a press conference can uncover. Reporters were unprepared as the conference was hurriedly arranged. Unlike lawmakers who can demand whatever materials from the candidate in a confirmation hearing, reporters can only ask questions about materials the person being questioned has access to. Since there was no one else to offer clarifications, nothing more can be discovered unless Cho spills the beans himself.
Moon requested a hearing report from the legislature while on an overseas trip. The procedure suggests he will appoint Cho before the Chuseok break next week. Except for the fact that Cho was able to plead for public sympathy and support, the conference achieved nothing in clarifying all the allegations around him. The ruling party is denying the legitimate democratic system if it thinks appointment of Cho is justified through a showy press conference.
JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 3, Page 30