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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Sept. 6)

Editorials from Korean Dailies 07:04 September 06, 2019

Prosecution vs. Cho Kuk
Nominee's wife should be investigated thoroughly

The prosecution is zeroing in on justice minister nominee Cho Kuk's wife, Chung Kyung-sim, an English literature professor at Dongyang University, in its escalating investigation into the fraud and corruption suspicions involving his family.

It cannot be ruled out that Chung, 57, could be summoned as a suspect, not as a witness, which means she could be detained after being questioned. If Cho is appointed, he may see his jailed wife preparing for trial as justice minister. What a bizarre situation this would be.

Some liberal big-wigs have criticized Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl over the ongoing investigation, raising allegations that he may have a political motive to block Cho from becoming his supervisor. These arguments are understandable to some extent because Cho had spearheaded judicial reform centered on limiting the prosecution's power as a senior presidential secretary from May 2017 to July this year. Cho has repeatedly said he wants to complete this job if appointed.

However, fresh suspicions about Cho's wife and daughter suggest the prosecution has good reasons for this investigation.

Dongyang University Dean Choi Sung-hae revealed Thursday he received a call from Chung and was asked to lie to investigators about an alleged document forgery case involving her. Chung is suspected of forging a certificate of the dean's award to help her daughter enroll at a medical school in 2014. The daughter wrote in the application paper that she won the dean's award for her voluntary work at an English education center affiliated with the university in 2012, and presented it along with the certificate to the school. Her mother was chief of the center at that time.

In media interviews, however, the dean claimed, as long as he could remember, he never gave the award to Chung's daughter, nor did he endorse such a certificate. He revealed that he received a phone call from Chung, in which she asked him to lie to the public that he had entrusted her with the authority to issue the dean's award certificate. School officials say they have no official record proving the daughter won the award.

The mother is also suspected of having registered her daughter as an assistant for the education center she headed to help the daughter get a salary.

The daughter's internship at the state-run Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) is also dubious. She participated for only two days as an intern at KIST in 2011, but presented a certificate showing she had completed a three-week internship program at the institute when she applied to the medical school. This internship was also arranged by her mother through a friend, who was a KIST researcher.

Cho said he can explain all in a confirmation hearing at the National Assembly, scheduled for Friday. In a press conference, Monday, Cho denied all the suspicions surrounding his daughter and relatives. After that, President Moon Jae-in asked the Assembly to adopt a confirmation hearing report for Cho -- only a formality needed for him to appoint Cho.

Moon, as of yet, looks adamant to go ahead with Cho's appointment, while liberals are gathering support for Cho. But it will be a whole different story if the allegations turn out to be true.

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