South Korean jus­tice min­is­ter picked

President ap­proves law pro­fes­sor despite fam­ily scan­dals

Global Times US Edition - - WORLD -

An em­bat­tled law pro­fes­sor be­gan his duty as South Korea’s jus­tice min­is­ter af­ter re­ceiv­ing pres­i­den­tial ap­proval on Mon­day, despite an on­go­ing probe by state pros­e­cu­tors into al­leged mis­con­duct by his wife.

Cho Kuk was ap­pointed to the role by President Moon Jae-in, the pres­i­den­tial Blue House said, with a man­date to re­form the pros­e­cu­tors’ of­fice.

Cho, a for­mer hu­man rights lawyer, was named last month by the president as a nom­i­nee to lead the min­istry.

But the con­fir­ma­tion process be­came a par­ti­san bat­tle­ground when questions were raised over Cho’s daugh­ter’s school­ing and his rel­a­tives’ in­vest­ment in a pri­vate eq­uity fund sus­pected of du­bi­ous op­er­a­tions.

Of­fi­cials from the pros­e­cu­tion of­fice that Cho is to lead have car­ried out mul­ti­ple raids over the past two weeks linked to the scan­dals.

Last week his wife Chung Kyung-sim was in­dicted for al­legedly forg­ing a col­lege award for their daugh­ter.

President Moon ad­mit­ted in a tele­vised state­ment on Mon­day that there was now a “sharp di­vi­sion” be­tween crit­ics and sup­port­ers of Cho, adding he had been “ag­o­nized” over the de­ci­sion.

But he said he stuck to his choice be­cause it would leave a “bad prece­dent” if he had dropped Cho’s nom­i­na­tion when it was not con­firmed that Cho had bro­ken laws him­self. “I thought it was more im­por­tant to follow prin­ci­ples and con­sis­tency,” he said.

At his in­au­gu­ra­tion cer­e­mony on Mon­day, Cho apol­o­gized for caus­ing concern as he reaf­firmed his com­mit­ment to im­ple­ment re­form.

“I have been tasked with a very im­por­tant duty at a per­son­ally dif­fi­cult time,” Cho said. “My shoul­ders are heavy as I am well aware that an ar­du­ous and rough path lies ahead of us.”

South Korea is an in­tensely com­pet­i­tive society where elite high schools have of­ten been crit­i­cized – in­clud­ing by Cho, who has said they cre­ate a “more unfair society.”

So he was slammed for hypocrisy when it emerged he had sent his own daugh­ter to such an in­sti­tu­tion and that she had ap­peared to ben­e­fit from fam­ily con­nec­tions.

Cho was grilled by law­mak­ers in a marathon 14-hour hear­ing on Fri­day, where he said he had “caused deep dis­ap­point­ment” and that his “words and ac­tions were not con­sis­tent.”

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