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Controversial minister nominee unveils plan to reform prosecution, apologizes for allegations

Politics 15:41 August 26, 2019

SEOUL, Aug. 26 (Yonhap) -- Controversial justice minister nominee Cho Kuk unveiled his plans to reform state prosecutors on Monday while apologizing for corruption allegations involving his daughter for a second straight day.

Cho faces mounting public criticism over allegations that his 28-year-old daughter may have received preferential treatment over college admission with a controversial academic paper.

Rejecting demands by opposition parties to voluntarily withdraw from the nomination, Cho expressed his willingness to stand at a confirmation hearing to address the allegations.

"If I am given a chance to stand at a (parliamentary) confirmation hearing, I would like to frankly explain my weakness and limitation, and I am ready to be reprimanded," Cho told reporters.

"But if (political parties) fail to reach a deal over a hearing, I want to clarify the allegations directly (to the public) in many ways," he added.

Justice minister nominee Cho Kuk answers questions from reporters on Aug. 26, 2019, over a series of corruption allegations involving his family. (Yonhap)

Public uproar mounted over his qualifications amid a series of scandals ranging from illicit college admission allegations about Cho's daughter and his family's dubious investment in a private equity fund and other corruption allegations.

In particular, the academics-related allegations involving his 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.

Apologizing for the allegations related to his daughter, Cho said, "It is painful, but I will not make an excuse or seek for public understanding."

Since the nomination, public anger at his "hypocritical" behavior has increased as Cho, a reform-minded law professor, has preached for a fair and just society and called for the need to eradicate social ills committed by the privileged.

Earlier in the day, political parties failed to reach a deal over the schedule for a confirmation hearing.

The ruling Democratic Party calls for a confirmation hearing on Friday, warning that it will push for a "people's hearing" that would be hosted by journalists where Cho could address the allegations to the public.

But the main opposition Liberty Korea Party and the minor opposition Bareunmirae Party want a hearing to be held early next month.

President Moon Jae-in named Cho, former senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, as his new justice minister in a Cabinet shake-up on Aug. 9, a move seen as reflecting his firm commitment to reform state prosecutors.

"The overhaul of the prosecution is an aspiration of our all citizens," Cho said while releasing a 10-page press release outlining the prosecution reform.

Apparently hit by the series of corruption scandals facing Cho, Moon's approval rating fell to 46.2 percent last week, down 3.2 percentage points from a week earlier, a Realmeter poll showed Monday.

Negative assessments of his job performance surpassed 50 percent for the first time since Moon took office in May 2017.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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