Independent probe neededThe far-reaching Cho Kuk scandal began with suspicions over the authenticity of his high school daughter being credited as an author of a thesis in a renowned medical journal. Investigations by the press and prosecutors found that a professor close to her parents had put her name on the top of the pecking order despite her minimal contribution. Soon followed a chain of suspicions about faked awards, a bogus certificate for an internship at a law firm and dubious scholarships to help her get admitted to a prestigious college. All those episodes explicitly showed how a student can deprive her peers of their innate right to fair opportunities.
The controversy surrounding the son of Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae is in the same vein. Her son did not return to his military base after his sick leave was over during his military service three years ago. After one of Choo’s aides made a suspicious phone call to an officer in her son’s barracks, his vacation was extended, according to the officer. Though the commander of the base said he approved it on his own, there is no record to back his claim.
It has not been affirmed who really made the phone call to the officer — Choo’s aide or Choo herself — to help extend her son’s sick leave without proper grounds. But all Korean men who finished their military duty know very well what happens if they don’t return to their base on time. They go to a military jail after being stigmatized as a deserter. To make matters worse, a “third-party” outsider of the base discussed an extension of her son’s vacation, which is unthinkable.
We wonder how such favors could be offered to the son of Choo, who headed the ruling Democratic Party (DP) at the time. A countless number of young people ask how such privileges were given to her son. If such allegations are proven, the privileges might have been offered to Choo’s children many times before as with the Cho family. The Moon Jae-in administration has championed the values of “equal opportunities, fair processes and just results” from the start. If such opportunites really depend on who your parents are, that is far worse than an empty slogan. It’s a lie.
Suspicions about Cho’s family were cleared up relatively quickly by the prosecution’s thorough investigations. However, prosecutors have been dragging their feet in probing Choo’s son’s case for as long as nine months. The prosecution even opted not to include the suspicious call from Choo’s office in its report to the upper command. That’s not all. Many of the prosecutors handling the case in the Seoul Eastern District Prosecutors’ Office have been reshuffled by Choo.
The results of investigations by the current team of prosecutors will most likely be politically polluted. It is time for Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl to establish an independent investigation team. If Choo blocks it, the National Assembly must deal with the case through a special prosecutor. You cannot cover the entire sky with the palm of your hand.