Blue House official is linked to Cho’s son’s applications

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Blue House official is linked to Cho’s son’s applications

Prosecutors investigating former Justice Minister Cho Kuk and his family found evidence that a high-level Blue House official allegedly wrote a bogus internship certificate for Cho’s son to help him get into Yonsei University’s graduate school.

Blue House Secretary for Civil Service Discipline Choe Kwang-wook, who’s in charge of monitoring high-level government officials for possible corruption and screening President Moon Jae-in’s minister nominees, is suspected of creating the fake certificate while working as a lawyer, before entering the Blue House.

Cho, at that time, was Moon’s senior secretary for civil affairs.

On the certificate, recently obtained by prosecutors, Choe claimed Cho’s son interned for him in 2017, but prosecutors believe the internship never happened.

Cho’s son allegedly cited that internship on at least three school applications: to Chungbuk National University’s law school in Cheongju, North Chungcheong, and for the graduate schools of Korea University and Yonsei University in Seoul.

He was accepted by Korea and Yonsei, and has been attending Yonsei since early 2018.

Among 12 charges formally pressed against Cho on Tuesday by the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, which indicted the former justice minister without physical detention, one was that Cho allegedly obstructed the admission procedures of Yonsei University and Korea University.

According to Cho’s arraignment obtained by the JoongAng Ilbo Tuesday, Cho and his wife contacted Choe in October 2017 as their son was preparing to apply for graduate school. They wanted it to appear their son engaged in various extracurricular activities to improve his chances of being accepted.

Cho was close to Choe, who was working as a lawyer at a law firm in Seoul. Cho allegedly asked Choe to invent an internship certificate for his son, and Choe allegedly agreed.

Based on a draft Cho’s wife gave to Choe, Choe whipped up a certificate that read Cho’s son did “outstanding” work as an intern for 16 hours from January to October 2017, during which he learned about the work of a lawyer, organized documents and helped with English translations, according to the arraignment.

Choe allegedly signed the certificate and affixed his seal, alongside the date Oct. 11, 2017.

Cho’s son used that certificate to apply to Korea University and Yonsei University in late 2017, and got accepted at both, prosecutors said. He is majoring in political science and international studies at Yonsei University Graduate School.

Months after he was accepted at Yonsei, Cho’s son decided to apply for Chungbuk National University’s law school in October 2018.

This time, instead of using the internship certificate from Choe, Cho and his wife allegedly created a new fake internship certificate using Choe’s seal, making it appear their son interned for Choe for 368 hours from January 2017 to February 2018. Choe’s seal was stamped alongside the date Aug. 7, 2018.

When this second fake certificate was made, Choe was working as the presidential secretary for civil service discipline, under Cho’s senior secretary for civil affairs office, though it is unclear whether Choe was aware of the second certificate.

Choe entered the Blue House in September 2018 and still works there. Cho served in the Blue House from May 2017 to July 2019, after which he served as justice minister for 35 days before resigning in early September.

Choe is known to have told prosecutors through a written form that Cho’s son did intern for him, but refused to show up for questioning. Prosecutors are considering indicting Choe on charges of obstructing business at Yonsei and Korea University.

BY KIM SU-MIN, JEON MIN-HEE AND LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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