Ruling party withdraws pick for CIO nomination committeeThe ruling party has withdrawn its appointment of a lawyer to a committee that will recommend candidates to lead a new investigation agency, following media reports that he represented an alleged sex offender.
The Democratic Party (DP) said Monday evening that it withdrew the appointment of Chang Sung-keun, a lawyer, as a member of the nomination committee that will determine the head of the Corruption Investigation Office for High-Ranking Officials (CIO).
Earlier in the day, the DP had announced the appointment of Kim Jong-cheol, a law professor at Yonsei University, and Chang, former president of the Gyeonggi Provincial Bar Association, as members of the nomination committee. After the appointments, the seven-member committee, which automatically includes the minister of justice, minister of National Court Administration and the president of the Korean Bar Association, was left with two vacancies for the main opposition United Future Party (UFP) to fill.
Less than seven hours later, Chang announced that he wouldn't accept the appointment.
He said he was rejecting the offer after media reported that one of his legal clients was a young man indicted as a co-conspirator of Cho Ju-bin.
Cho, along with a handful of alleged co-conspirators, is accused of operating a pornography trafficking ring through Telegram chat rooms, also referred to as the "Nth room." More than 100 victims, including children, were allegedly blackmailed to provide sexually explicit photographs and videos of themselves, which Cho sold to paying chat room members from May last year to this February.
Chang’s client, only identified by his surname Kang, allegedly accessed personal information of victims while he was serving his military duty at a district office and offered them to Cho to use for blackmail. He was arrested in January as a co-conspirator, and the trial is still ongoing.
Chang was also Kang’s lawyer in a separate trial in 2018. When Kang was a high school student, he was indicted on charges of stalking and threatening a teacher. He was later convicted of the crime and served a 14-month prison term.
“I decided to represent my client because of my personal relations with his parents,” Chang said Monday. “Although I have resigned from the current case [of the Nth room scandal], I don’t want this to affect the launch of the CIO.”
DP Rep. Baek Hye-ryun, who oversaw the process of appointing Chang to the nomination committee, apologized to the public.
“Unless the lawyer himself discloses all the cases he had represented, we have no way to know,” she said, adding that the party will quickly find a replacement.
Lee Chan-hee, president of the Korean Bar Association, on Tuesday defended Chang. He said there was no reason for him to resign.
“A lawyer should defend everyone, even a murderer,” Lee said. “Only then, human rights and basic rights of the people in this country are protected.”
Lee also said the DP should persuade the UFP to cooperate with the formation of the nomination committee to launch the CIO. The CIO is scheduled to open Wednesday, but no progress has been made due to the UFP's continued protests.
“It is not important whether you took a certain case or not,” Lee added. “What’s important is the way he represented a client. Unless he made a politically-biased argument, he had no reason to resign.”
BY SER MYO-JA [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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