The Koreas | Politics | East Asia

South Korean Government and Prosecutors Clash Over Justice Minister Nominee

The nominee for justice minister — Cho Kuk — is at the center of a growing list of allegations.

Tae-jun Kang
South Korean Government and Prosecutors Clash Over Justice Minister Nominee
Credit: Pixabay

The South Korean government and prosecutors have clashed over allegations levied against the country’s justice minister nominee Cho Kuk.

Cho is currently in the center of controversy amid multiple allegations that he and his family members engaged in illegal or unfair practices seeking personal gains. Since some of them are subject to official investigations, South Korean prosecutors are currently looking into the matter. 

When the prosecution launched a search and seizure of Cho on June 27, South Korea ruling party expressed strong displeasure, saying that the prosecutors were attempting to exercise influence on a “political issues.”

For a time, some viewed the prosecution of Cho as being aimed at easing the burden of public anger on government. However, the ruling party’s sense of crisis and discontent grew as signs emerged that the investigation was ongoing, becoming more concrete and substantial. The prosecutors are now looking into not only Cho but his family members, including his daughter and wife.

Many believe that the disclosure of Cho’s daughter’s school records was a trigger for the ruling party to publicly protest against prosecutors since it was revealed by an opposition Liberty Korea Party lawmaker, Joo Kwang-deok.

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The record was issued only to Cho’s side and prosecutors, and the ruling party is certain that the prosecutors leaked the document to the opposition. The record is considered a piece of key evidence to prove whether Cho’s daughter received favorable treatment from the university she attends.

South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon publicly criticized prosecutors on May 5 for “crossing the line,” while Justice Minister Park Sang-ki also expressed his regret and said the prosecutors should have informed him before they raided Cho’s family.

In response, the Prosecutor-General Yoon Seok-yeol said it would significantly undermine the neutrality of the investigation and the independence of judicial action if the justice minister frequently directs investigations into specific cases and receives prior reports on them.

The prosecutor’s office also pointed out that it is inappropriate for the Blue House to comment on the allegation against Cho.

The Blue House nevertheless made a comment on the ongoing allegation against Cho that his daughter fabricated a certificate from Tongyang University, where Cho’s wife works as a professor. The certificate from the university is believed to have been important for Cho’s daughter when she applied for the university and got accepted.

The tension between the government and the prosecutor’s office is expected to continue as the prosecutors seem to be determined to get to the bottom of all allegations against Cho.

It is unclear who will be bleeding more since the investigation is still ongoing, but signs are not favorable for both Cho and the government.

Multiple testimonials and news reports have emerged over the past few days backing the allegations against Cho, while prosecutors also have reportedly secured several pieces of evidence.

In contrast, Cho has failed so far to explain or prove that the allegations are untrue in his latest press conference or at the ongoing confirmation hearings.

As of this writing, South Korea’s parliament is holding an overdue and highly anticipated confirmation hearing for Cho. Politicians are questioning Cho over the mounting allegations.

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Accordingly, public discontent over Cho continues to grow. In the latest poll conducted by Realmeter, 56.2 percent of respondents said they opposed Cho’s appointment as the justice minister, while 40.1 percent of people showed their support.

The gap of 16.1 percent between two groups is the biggest since August 28 when the first such poll was conducted. At that time, 54.5 percent people opposed the appointment, while 39.2 percent of respondents supported Cho.