Cho should quit SNU

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Cho should quit SNU

Justice Minister Cho Kuk applied for a leave of absence from the Seoul National University (SNU) School of Law after his appointment became official on Monday. He is taking a leave after just returning to the school on Aug. 1 following his hiatus of 26 months for service at the Blue House as the presidential secretary for civil affairs. He nevertheless took home a paycheck of around 8 million won ($6,700) for August from the school. His leave is expected to be easily acquitted as SNS does not restrict leaves of absence by professors when they go away for public service.

Although legitimate, Cho’s action has again irked students of SNU and other schools. The student body of SNS has been staging protests against Cho’s appointment as they found him unfit for the job of upholding justice when he and his family have come under fire for taking their privileges for granted. He was labelled the “most shameful alumni.” Cho was accused of being a “polifessor,” a term referring to scholars with more political ambitions than scholarly devotions.

Cho in the past criticized politicians-turned-professors for abandoning their academic obligations and enjoying both worlds. Yet he went straight back to his school after he left the Blue House, self-excusing himself by justifying the intelligentsia’s duty to studies and social participation and citing many others who had returned to school after leave for public office.

In the news conference before the confirmation hearing, Cho said despite its legitimacy, a lengthy leave of absence could restrict students’ choices and rights. He added he would make a decision not to disrupt the lecture options in the school after the controversy around him is cleared, suggesting he would not adhere to his lecturing job.

On inauguration day, he said prosecutorial reform may become difficult if it is not pursued now, which is the reason he has come to head the Justice Ministry. He vowed to carry out his ministerial responsibility with conviction. But if he has such conviction, why has he not resigned from the university? It only implies that he has secured his job in the case he is removed from the Justice Ministry.

He contradicted himself as he addressed ever-snowballing issue around him and his family during the confirmation process. He had told lawmakers in the confirmation hearing that his father had registered the birth of his daughter, which turned out to be a lie since her birth certificate had his name in the signature section. The opposition filed for prosecutorial investigation about the allegation that Cho’s son had also cooked up his internship experience at the Seoul National University’s public civilian law center. Prosecutors have begun searching the residence of the ex-wife of Cho’s brother over suspicions about the family school foundation and as well as the home of a company Cho’s family invested in. It appears that Cho was keeping his teaching job at SNU alive in fear of negative results from the probes. If he is really serving the public office in conviction, he should surrender his other office at SNU.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 11, Page 26
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