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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Aug. 21)

Politics 07:00 August 21, 2019

Integrity at stake

Skeletons from the past of justice minister nominee Cho Kuk, former Blue House senior secretary for civil affairs, keep tumbling out of the closet. On top of allegations of illegal wealth accumulation and using a fake residential address to send his daughter to a better school, a new suspicion has emerged about his daughter — a high school student at the time — being credited as the author of a published medical research paper. And yet, the ruling Democratic Party (DP) is defending the nominee without trying to find the truth behind the mounting suspicions.

Rep. Lee In-young, floor leader of the DP, threatened to refuse a confirmation hearing "aimed at exposing the privacy of Cho's family through fake news and mudslinging." Lee took the lead in defending Cho by attacking the opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) for "making groundless accusations."

DP lawmakers defended Cho one after another. On a radio program, Rep. Woo Sang-ho, former floor leader of the party, said that it should be good news if Cho's brother really lived with his wife even after divorce — a reference to their alleged "fake divorce" for financial reasons.

Rep. Kim Jong-min, a deputy floor leader of the DP, praised Cho's investment in a suspicious private equity fund for his "contribution to the market economy." Rep. Pyo Chang-won compared the LKP's attacks on Cho to the "witch hunts prevalent in Europe in the 13th and 14th centuries." Rep. Song Ki-hun, a senior member of the Legislation and Judiciary Committee, made remarks totally unrelated to the issue. "Given all the attacks on Cho, he must be a very powerful figure even though he is not one of the presidential hopefuls," he said.
When controversy arose over former Senior Presidential Secretary for Civil Affairs Woo Byung-woo's son having received privileges while performing his military service during the Park Geun-hye administration, DP lawmakers harshly attacked. In a strange about-turn, they are shocked at attacks on Cho.

DP lawmakers' reactions partly stem from their deepening concerns that if Cho — a symbolic figure representing the liberal values of the ruling party — steps down as justice minister nominee, it will deal a blow to the government. But that is irresponsible and neglects their duty to check the administration. That also betrays their obligation as a governing power. They should stop political maneuvering on Cho's qualifications as justice minister. They must realize the ruling party's integrity is at stake.

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