Civic group files complaint against Choe for bribing Cho Kuk

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Civic group files complaint against Choe for bribing Cho Kuk

A civic group on Wednesday filed a criminal complaint to the prosecution to investigate allegations that Choe Kang-wook, a lawmaker-elect of the Open Minjoo Party, bribed former Justice Minister Cho Kuk to win a post in the Blue House.

The conservative civic group, Solidarity for Nomocracy, held a press conference in front of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office and demanded a criminal investigation into Choe. “Choe issued fake internship certificates for Cho’s son,” said Lee Jong-bae, head of the civic group. “In the following year, Choe was named the presidential secretary for civil service discipline. It means he gave the fake certificates as a bribe [for the post].”

Choe and Cho both studied law at Seoul National University during the same period. Choe, a lawyer, was named the presidential secretary in September 2018, when Cho was the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office indicted Choe in January on a charge of issuing false internship certificates to Cho’s son in 2017, when Choe was working for a law firm in southern Seoul. Cho’s son allegedly used the fake certificates for his applications to graduate schools of Yonsei and Korea Universities. After graduating from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Cho’s son applied to the two graduate schools and was accepted. He is currently studying political science at Yonsei University in western Seoul.

The prosecutors indicted Choe on charges of obstructing the admission process of the universities. The civic group said Choe should be investigated, indicted and punished for having bribed Cho. According to Article 133 of the Criminal Act, a person who promises, delivers or manifests a will to deliver a bribe is punishable by a maximum five-year prison sentence or a fine of up to 20 million won ($16,200).

When he attended the first session of his trial for obstruction of the universities’ admissions on Tuesday, Choe argued that he was wrongfully accused by the political prosecutors. Choe denied all charges, claiming that Cho’s son had actually worked as an intern and that the internship experience was irrelevant to his admission.

Pressure is high for Choe to present some evidence to verify his claim. “If any law firm worker had seen Cho’s son working in the office as an intern, Choe should call him or her as a witness for his trial,” said Chin Jung-kwon, a renowned commentator.

A lawyer, Kim Jeong-cheol, said it is easy to prove someone’s internship at a law firm. “Any intern would create documents and exchange them though the email system of the law firm or his or her mentor lawyer,” Kim said. “Choe can just submit the emails.”

The civic group said Choe must stop lying. “No one in the office had seen Cho’s son and there was no record at all,” it said. “But Choe is shamelessly making a groundless, false claim.”

Choe, who resigned from the Blue House secretary post in March, ran as a proportional candidate of the Open Minjoo Party and won. He is currently the acting chairman of the party, which produced a total of three proportional representatives in last week’s general elections.

BY LEE GA-YOUNG [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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