Moon must decideProsecutors raided the residence of Justice Minister Cho Kuk to find evidence of his involvement in a number of allegations against him and his family. It was the first such raid in Korea’s history. His wife has been indicted and yet the president pressed ahead with Cho’s appointment as justice minister. Is this unprecedented development really what President Moon Jae-in wants as a legacy?
The prosecution has gathered evidence from more than 30 locations involving Cho and his family. The gravity of the situation is obvious. First of all, circumstantial evidence suggests Cho and his wife were involved in several cases of faking documents to help their children get into better universities. The suspicion that his wife, a professor at a local university, was involved in an illegal operation of a controversial private equity fund is also being investigated by the prosecution.
What makes matters worse is the way the justice minister behaved. He has been pressuring the prosecution to thwart its investigation while his wife took actions that could only be suspected of destruction of evidence, including an attempt to cajole related parties into denying charges. Under such circumstances, if the prosecution wrapped up its investigations without conducting a search and seizure on his residence, they could come under severe criticism.
As a law professor at Seoul National University during the Park Geun-hye administration, Cho attacked Cho Yoon-sun, culture minister at the time, for being investigated for abuse of power while maintaining her ministerial position. Yet Cho met with junior prosecutors to “listen to their complaints in the field” while maintaining his title as justice minister even when he is under investigation for a plethora of allegations. Worse, the ruling Democratic Party is busy advocating for him. Chairman Lee Hae-chan criticized the prosecution for “digging up extra possible dirt involving Cho” to indict.
Prosecutors are probing the case on three fronts — his children’s possibly unfair or even fraudulent admissions to universities, his involvement in a suspicious equity fund and corruption at a school foundation he allegedly served as a board member.
The time has come for Moon to make a weighty decision. Even on a trip to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly and have a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, he certainly understands the graveness of the issue. He must not leave it unattended. Otherwise, a crisis will befall his administration.
JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 24, Page 34