Supreme Court finds Cho Kuk's cousin guilty
The Supreme Court upheld the conviction of a cousin of former Justice Minister Cho Kuk for embezzlement.
Cho Beom-dong, Cho Kuk’s first cousin, had been convicted of a series of financial crimes including embezzlement, breach of trust and making false public statements about a private equity fund he operated. Cho Kuk's wife, Chung Kyung-sim, was one of the fund’s main investors.
It was the first Supreme Court ruling on a series of trials involving former minister Cho and his family.
The Supreme Court upheld a lower court's ruling that Cho Beom-dong had not colluded with his cousin and his wife to abuse his political power.
Cho was arrested in September 2019 and indicted the next month for alleged capital market law violations involving the private equity fund Co-link PE. He was also charged with ordering his staff to destroy evidence linked to the former minister and Chung.
The Seoul Central District Court convicted Cho in July 2020 of embezzling about 7.2 billion won from the private equity fund, while rejecting the prosecution’s argument that Chung was a co-conspirator.
The district court also convicted Cho of colluding with Chung to destroy evidence.
In January, the Seoul High Court upheld the district court’s ruling that Cho committed both financial crimes and evidence destruction, and that Chung only colluded with Cho for the latter.
Cho Kuk is a key ally of President Moon Jae-in who also served as senior secretary for civil affairs at the Blue House from May 2017 through July 2019. In the following month, Moon nominated him as justice minister. Suspicions of academic irregularities and financial corruption were raised about Cho and his family during the confirmation hearing process. Moon went ahead and appointed him, and Cho briefly headed the Justice Ministry from Sept. 9 to Oct. 14, 2019.
His wife, an English literature professor at Dongyang University, was indicted last year on three main allegations. She was accused of having forged documents to help her daughter get accepted into Korea University and two medical schools; making illegal investments using a private equity fund; and destroying evidence.
In December, the Seoul Central District Court convicted her of academic frauds committed on behalf of her daughter and sentenced her to four years in prison. At the time, she was found guilty of some charges associated with her investments, but not all. She was indicted on 15 counts and convicted of 11.
Chung's appeal is currently ongoing at the Seoul High Court. Final arguments are scheduled for July 12.
A separate trial of Cho Kuk is also ongoing at the Seoul Central District Court over charges that he colluded with his wife to unlawfully help their daughter get into a medical school and broke the law on numerous occasions to amass wealth. He is currently standing trial at the Seoul Central District Court.
BY SER MYO-JA [firstname.lastname@example.org]