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DP chief calls for minister nominee's sincere apology over corruption allegations

Politics 12:04 August 23, 2019

SEOUL, Aug. 23 (Yonhap) -- The chief of the ruling Democratic Party (DP) on Friday raised the need for Justice Minister nominee Cho Kuk to apologize to the public for the snowballing corruption allegations involving his family members.

Cho faces growing public criticism over a series of corruption scandals, including suspicions that his 28-year-old daughter may have received preferential treatment for college admission with a controversial academic paper.

DP chairman Lee Hae-chan expressed regret that Cho's scandals have generated public anger during a press briefing to mark the first anniversary of him elected as party chief.

"It is important for Cho to frankly apologize for what has driven the public anger during a confirmation hearing. It is critical for him to clarify details of the allegations and humbly accept the public judgment," Lee said.

Lee Hae-chan (C), chief of the ruling Democratic Party, holds a press conference at the National Assembly to mark the first anniversary of electing him and members of the leadership's council on Aug. 23, 2019. (Yonhap)

The allegations linked to Cho's daughter have hit a public nerve in a country where college admission is a sensitive issue.

The daughter was listed as a primary writer for a pathology paper published in a renowned medical journal when she took part in a two-week internship at a medical science institute in 2008 as a high school student. Critics speculate that the paper may have helped her enroll in Korea University in 2010.

She also received scholarships worth 12 million won (US$9,928) at a medical school in 2016-2018 though she flunked twice.

Rep. Kim Hae-young of the DP, a member of the party leadership's council, also cast a similar view Thursday, calling for Cho's sincere apology.

A row surrounding Cho's corruption scandals has no signs of easing, prompting political parties to wrangle over the date of a parliamentary confirmation hearing.

The DP insists the hearing should be held by a legal deadline that falls on Aug. 30. But conservative opposition parties spurn the ruling party's call.

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party proposed a three-day confirmation hearing to thoroughly vet Cho's qualifications.

But the DP chief dismissed the idea as a political gambit, adding that even a hearing for the prime minister is being held for two days.

Meanwhile, Cho has rejected demands by opposition parties to step down, saying he will address all allegations at a confirmation hearing.

To clarify the allegations involving his family, the nominee said he is open to attending a "public" confirmation hearing that would involve the participation of people.

The DP is considering such a format to allow Cho to speak about his allegations to the people to brace for a possible failure to reach a partisan deal on a parliamentary confirmation hearing.

"As minister nominee, I am open to any kind of the verification process. I will answer everything if a public hearing will be opened," he said.

A confirmation hearing is widely seen as a formality, as the formal appointment of a minister-level official does not require approval from the National Assembly. President Moon Jae-in has appointed 16 ministerial-level officials so far without parliamentary consent.

Students of Seoul National University (SNU) and Korea University plan to hold a candlelight vigil on their campuses in the evening as scheduled to express anger over the illegal college admission allegations of his daughter. Cho is a law professor at SNU.

Justice Minister nominee Cho Kuk speaks to reporters on Aug. 23, 2019, about mounting corruption allegations involving his family members. (Yonhap)

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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