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(2nd LD) Justice minister nominee to hold press briefing over corruption allegations

Politics 14:52 September 02, 2019

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead to highlight Cho's plan for press conference; UPDATES with more info throughout)

SEOUL, Sept. 2 (Yonhap) -- Cho Kuk, the embattled justice minister nominee, said Monday he will hold a press conference to clarify a series of corruption allegations involving his family as a scheduled confirmation hearing for him looks impossible.

Cho, former senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, will hold a press briefing at the National Assembly at 3:30 p.m. as the hearings set for Monday and Tuesday have effectively fallen through amid political wrangling.

"Cho has asked (the ruling Democratic Party) for cooperation, to allow him to address the allegations through the format of a press conference," Hong Ik-pyo, spokesman of the party, told reporters.

"He has the right and duty to clarify his stance over the relentless attacks and libel against him," Hong added.

Cho separately told reporters at his temporary office that he will "take and answers questions even all through the night."

Justice Minister nominee Cho Kuk speaks to reporters at his temporary office in Seoul on Sept. 2, 2019, over his plan to hold a press conference to clarify corruption allegations involving his family. (Yonhap)

Cho, a reform-minded law professor, is the focus of public outcry over corruption allegations involving his family, including suspected undue entrance by his daughter into an elite university and a hefty dubious investment in a private equity fund.

In particular, the allegations that his 28-year-old daughter may have received undue preferential treatment in entering an elite college have hit a public nerve in a country where college admission is a sensitive issue.

Political parties earlier agreed to hold a confirmation hearing this week, but sparred over a list of witnesses, making the scheduled session nearly fall through.

Earlier in the day, the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) said it will not demand Cho's daughter, wife and mother attend the hearing as witnesses.

Instead, the conservative party called for the hearing to be held in accordance with legally-set procedures, which means that the session will be held at least five days later.

But the DP has stuck to the original hearing schedule, saying that the LKP is seeking to prolong a political impasse involving Cho's allegations.

The LKP condemned Cho's plan as a move to "disregard" the National Assembly. The minor opposition Bareunmirae Party slammed it as an "illegal" confirmation hearing and plans to file a complaint with the prosecution against President Moon Jae-in and related officials for alleged abuse of power.

Last week, prosecutors carried out simultaneous raids on some 20 locations, including five universities, as part of its probe into the allegations.

The DP slammed the prosecution's raids as a move to hamper President Moon's drive to reform the elite investigation agency.

President Moon named Cho as the new justice minister in a Cabinet shakeup on Aug. 9 in a move reflecting his commitment to conduct the sweeping overhaul of the prosecution.

The adoption of a confirmation hearing report by parliament is a procedural way to express the assembly's consent to the president's nomination of ministerial-level officials.

Moon is likely to ask the National Assembly to send the hearing report about Cho to him on Tuesday, regardless of whether a hearing session will convene. This means Moon may appoint Cho as the justice minister without a hearing.

A Realmeter poll showed a majority of respondents are opposed Moon's potential appointment of Cho as justice minister. But the portion of people approving his appointment rose to 42.3 percent as of Friday, up 3.1 percentage points from two days earlier.

Ruling Democratic Party (DP) lawmakers on the parliamentary legislation committee hold a press briefing at the National Assembly in Seoul on Sept. 2, 2019, over a confirmation hearing for Justice Minister nominee Cho Kuk. (Yonhap)


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