One suspicion after anotherSuspicions over Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae’s son and daughter are deepening. Choo says there was no problem at all, as they “followed appropriate procedures.” But her remarks only fueled public anger after they proved to be untrue.
It all started with bombshell allegations over her son not having returned to his military base after a sick leave during his military service in 2017. It has been confirmed that one of his mother’s aides made a phone call to an officer at the base to ask a favor for him at the time. Choo’s office also asked top brass to assign the son as an interpreter during the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games. An official from the Foreign Ministry testified that one of her aides pressured the ministry to get a visa for Choo’s daughter from the French Embassy in Seoul faster to help her study in France. All of these things happened when Choo was head of the Democratic Party (DP), which is now the ruling party.
Choo’s attorney refuted her son’s apparent violation of military vacation rules, saying he was following the rules of the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK). He was doing his military duty as a soldier of the Korean Augmentation to The U.S. Army (Katusa) for the 2nd Infantry Division of the U.S. 8th Army. Therefore, even if he extended his vacation through a phone call from outside the barracks, that’s not a big deal, the lawyer claimed. But it turned out that when it comes to military vacation rules, even a Katusa soldier must follow Korean Army regulations. As a result, Choo is being cornered even further. She denied that one of her aides had made a phone call to her son’s military base, but that turned out to be a lie.
Choo used the weird logic that some requests for favors cannot constitute solicitations, as they were not realized. Didn’t the justice minister, a former judge, know that the act of solicitation by civil servants violates the law the moment they solicit?
After the opposition People Power Party (PPP) started talking about Choo’s resignation, she said she would not be briefed about the results of the prosecution’s investigations into her son’s case. From the start, however, a justice minister has no authority to get briefed about individual cases.
Choo has already appointed a top prosecutor — one of her close allies — as head of the Seoul Eastern District Prosecutors’ Office, which has been dealing with the case. At the same time, she has forced another prosecutor under suspicion for his omission of a military officer’s allegations against her son to return to the ongoing investigation team on her son. Under such circumstances, who would believe her sincerity?
Choo must set up a totally neutral investigation team. Otherwise, the president must step in.