Repent and apologizeOn Thursday, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s sentence of four years in jail for Chung Kyung-sim — a former Dongyang University professor and the wife of former Justice Minister Cho Kuk — for fraudulent activity involving college admissions for her daughter and illegitimate investment in a private equity fund. The investigation into her was initiated by former Prosecutor General Yoon Suk-yeol shortly after her husband was nominated to head the Ministry of Justice after serving as a presidential aide in the Blue House. The prosecution indicted Chung on September 6, 2019, the day her husband’s confirmation hearing started. After 29 months of trials, numerous charges of corruption by the Cho family have been affirmed by the top court.
One point of contention was whether a PC obtained by investigators from an instructors’ room at Chung’s university could be used as evidence. The PC contained sensitive files that could back suspicions about credentials for her daughter’s college entrance, including a file of the university president’s seal, which may have been used to create fake certificates about the daughter’s activities at the school. Chung persistently argued against the PC being used as evidence since her first trial. But the court found no legal problem with the PC, as it was managed by the university and was submitted by one of the professor’s assistants. The court also concluded that all her daughter’s intern activities at several universities, including Seoul National University, were “manipulated” in line with the same judgments from lower courts. The ruling will likely affect former justice minister Cho’s separate trials over related charges.
We respect the top court’s ruling. Corruption in the college entrance process damages our society’s core value — justice. The public “frustration and disappointment” pointed out by lower courts reflects that truth. After the highest court’s ruling, Pusan National University must restart the procedure of cancelling the admission of the daughter, who could get admitted to its medical school in 2014 based on fake documents.
After the two lower court rulings against his wife, Cho brought the case to the Supreme Court without any apology. Even after the top court’s ruling, he reiterated his own pain and expressed concerns about a “retrogression of advanced Republic of Korea” if former chief prosecutor Yoon, now presidential candidate for the opposition People Power Party (PPP), wins the March 9 election.
The Cho family must humbly accept their defeat. Otherwise, the nation could be sharply split again. The time is long overdue for the family to do some deep soul-searching.