To be guilty or not
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?