To be guilty or not

The Korea Times - - OPINION - Kim Ji-myung The writer (Her­itageko­[email protected]) is the chair­per­son of the Korea Her­itage Ed­u­ca­tion In­sti­tute (K*Her­itage).

Is the re­cent Cho Kuk chaos draw­ing nearer to a close with his res­ig­na­tion from the jus­tice min­is­ter’s po­si­tion? I’m afraid not. Peo­ple, in­clud­ing the op­po­si­tion party, are still very wary of this pow­er­ful man sec­ond only to the pres­i­dent.

Al­though much of his and his fam­ily’s crim­i­nal charges haven’t been cleared up, he may re­main a threat un­til his pos­si­ble en­try into the Na­tional As­sem­bly or even as a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date in the next elec­tion.

His farewell state­ment, ex­press­ing his love for his “vic­tim­ized” fam­ily, failed to move the peo­ple be­cause it was his ob­ses­sion to sit in the jus­tice min­is­ter’s seat that was the cause of the ex­po­sure of all the di­verse and com­pli­cated fam­ily re­lated prob­lems. Once your speech loses truth­ful­ness, it is hard to turn it around.

What is clear is that the Cho scan­dal clearly re­vealed the two vastly sep­a­rate at­ti­tudes of Kore­ans. The pro-Cho groups, Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in and the rul­ing party on one side, and the rest on the other side stood in extreme an­tag­o­nism. And so far there ap­pears to be no hope of rap­proche­ment.

Feel­ing frus­trated and en­raged, peo­ple cut links with friends and col­leagues on so­cial net­work ser­vices such as KakaoTalk and Face­book. Se­ri­ous blocks were newly con­firmed be­tween friends and among fam­ily mem­bers as they joined op­po­site sides.

To con­fess, I also cut off a Face­book friend. Of course, she does not know this. I will never un­der­stand her sup­port for Cho and his wife with all the lies, forgery, and un­law­ful acts to help their chil­dren en­ter schools they wanted to, not to men­tion the fam­ily’s other il­le­gal, fi­nan­cial schem­ing.

This is not an is­sue of ide­ol­ogy. It is a mat­ter of fun­da­men­tal dis­man­tling of trust in univer­sal val­ues — hon­esty, a law-abid­ing spirit, fair­ness, moral­ity and eth­i­cal obli­ga­tions as learned in­tel­lec­tu­als, and re­spon­si­bil­ity as so­cial lead­ers.

Over the past sev­eral months of the Cho scan­dal, Pres­i­dent Moon sup­ported Cho, as the only and re­li­able cham­pion to carry out what he wants in the name of prose­cu­tion re­form.

But el­derly cit­i­zens did not buy him. They got up­dated in­for­ma­tion and in-depth com­men­taries from newly emerged YouTube chan­nels.

Pro-gov­ern­ment net­work TV and ra­dio chan­nels lost their au­di­ences while YouTube pro­grams func­tioned as shel­ters to escape from the anx­i­ety and wor­ries for the pos­si­ble fall of the free and pros­per­ous South Korea.

Some of these anti-Moon stu­dios fea­ture in­flu­en­tial jour­nal­ists and whistle­blow­ers who have been op­pressed or ousted by the rul­ing party. In other words, the op­er­a­tors have hu­man net­works and in­for­ma­tion sources.

They have knowhow and ex­pe­ri­ences to ap­peal to au­di­ences, some­times lead­ing the can­dlelit protests or mas­sive taegeukki flag gath­er­ings on the streets of cen­tral Seoul.

Even in my fam­ily di­a­logue, Cho case has long been a taboo sub­ject. We all knew well that no one was ready to be per­suaded. That gap be­tween our per­cep­tions of the sit­u­a­tion was vast. I could not un­der­stand how peo­ple see a to­tally dif­fer­ent pic­ture from the same page?

Right is right and wrong is wrong to those con­ser­va­tive groups in­clud­ing my­self. You can tell jus­tice from in­jus­tice and fair­ness from un­fair­ness. Crim­i­nal acts must be in­ves­ti­gated and judged by courts. Hence, Cho is not ac­cept­able.

On the other hand, to those “pro­gres­sive” groups, the cri­te­ria of judg­ment seem to be where one be­longs. They sup­port Cho no mat­ter what, as long he sides with them. They claim he is be­ing vic­tim­ized by the prose­cu­tion and the press who con­cocted his crime to thwart his re­form drive.

And a jok­ing state­ment by a for­mer pros­e­cu­tor gen­eral opened my eyes yes­ter­day.

He said, “If you try to group peo­ple into two — ones who do some­thing and oth­ers who don’t, you are wrong. There are two groups — ones who get caught and oth­ers who don’t.”

By this rule, Cho be­longs to the those who “get caught” group. And his sup­port­ers are sorry for his bad luck. Some even claim that he will prove per­fectly not guilty of any charges in a few months.

Are we wait­ing to see the worst to come, if and when Cho re­turns to his class­room as a pro­fes­sor, and teaches “jus­tice” to stu­dents at Seoul Na­tional Univer­sity?

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