We can’t believe ChoCho Kuk — the controversial nominee for justice minister — has caused more trouble through his marathon press conference that went on for 11 hours. Again, he chose to explain himself before the public without going through a legitimate confirmation hearing. His aberrant behavior has undermined the democratic system of our society.
Under a heavy media spotlight, Cho apologized for disappointing people with the “gap” between his past and present. However, he maintained that he was not aware of the irregularities with his daughter’s academic credentials or the blind equity fund his family has parked wealth in. He also had been “puzzled” upon learning that his daughter earned first author credit in a medical research paper she contributed to during her two-week internship program as a high school student.
“Guidelines (on authoring) must have been lax and had been up to the head professor,” he said. He also was not aware of the fund his family invested in or how it was managed. “I just hope my nephew (who was involved in operating the fund and is now overseas) returns home as soon as possible and clears up the suspicion.” He maintained ignorance in his daughter’s scholarship benefits and other suspicions around a school foundation his mother headed, but denied any illegalities.
But he was eager in self-justification. “I have been torn to pieces. Nevertheless, I will keep going as far as I can. What else can I do?” These comments cannot come from someone who is sincerely remorseful. He only sounded like he would head the justice ministry after surviving the current crisis.
The presidential office is ready to appoint Cho if public sentiment softens on him. President Moon Jae-in asked the National Assembly to hand over confirmation hearing reports on the candidates for ministerial level, including Cho. Ruling Democratic Party (DP) floor leader Lee In-young claimed that much of the allegations against Cho were cleared through the conference. What use is the National Assembly and confirmation hearings if candidates can justify themselves in a press conference?
Choi Jang-jip, emeritus professor at Korea University, said the president could be accused of abusing power or putting himself above the law or systems by ignoring democratic rules and procedures if he believes Cho’s appointment is justifiable through the news conference without a confirmation hearing. The government could face a serious backlash if it pushes ahead with the appointment. The opposition camp must do its best to arrange Cho’s confirmation hearing.
The onus falls heavier on the prosecution to clarify all the allegations around Cho. The prosecution summoned Chang Young-pyo, a professor of Dankook University who listed Cho as the first author on the medical research paper, and searched the office of Cho’s wife at Dongyang University where she teaches. The prosecution must comb through the suspicions and uncover the truth.
JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 4, Page 30