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The author is the head of the national team at the JoongAng Ilbo.

“I am already wrecked. I think presidential ambitions are far-fetched,” said justice minister nominee Cho Kuk on Sept. 2 at an unprecedented press conference as the National Assembly hearing was not held. It was his answer for a question on whether he intended to run for president.


Some opposition politicians claim that he was keeping a low profile to get through the situation, but I don’t think that was the case. It seemed to reflect the resentment that media attacks on him were too harsh. I could feel it from his attitude strongly denying various allegations throughout the conference.

Since his nomination, Korea has been a madhouse. I can say for sure that there has never been so much controversy over an appointment hearing for one minister.

Many people were confused about the media reports on Cho and his family. On the allegation that his child had enjoyed the benefits that average people did not even know about, young people in their 20s and 30s and their parents in their 50s and 60s got angry. When some parts of Cho’s life turned out to be contradictory to what he said or wrote, even some supporters turned against him.

If it were another candidate, he or she would have withdrawn. Aside from the ruling party’s calculations, Cho explained why he was enduring the attacks.

“It is not just for the position of the minister, but what I can do in the position is directly related to my life until now.” He meant to complete the mission to reform the prosecutors.

The precedence from the Roh Moo-hyun administration shows that prosecutors’ reform is one of the hardest challenges. It failed in the end. Ironically, the fate of Cho, who aspires to reform the prosecutors, is in the hands of the prosecutors. I am justifiably doubtful whether Cho can accomplish prosecutors’ reform, which he believes is his mission.

It is especially so as he said that he was “wrecked” and cannot think about presidential ambitions. If he is sincere, it means that there are certain points about the allegations against him of which he needs to repent. If so, can he serve as a minister if he is “wrecked?” A minister of justice executing law and justice? Isn’t this arrogance that creates such a contradiction?

A wrecked person can become president. The past can be ignored, and people will vote for him. But it is not the case for an appointed position, especially the justice minister. So morality is strictly verified. It is only obstinacy that claims that he alone is the right candidate for the job.
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