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(LEAD) Court opens hearing to decide on arrest warrant for wife of ex-justice minister

All Headlines 10:50 October 23, 2019

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; UPDATES with more info throughout)

SEOUL, Oct. 23 (Yonhap) -- The wife of former Justice Minister Cho Kuk attended a court hearing Wednesday that will decide whether an arrest warrant will be issued for her over charges related to her daughter's college admission and an investment in a private equity fund (PEF).

Chung Kyung-sim, a Dongyang University professor, appeared at the Seoul Central District Court in southern Seoul at around 10:10 a.m. for the hearing.

For roughly two months, the prosecution has been looking into Cho's family over allegations regarding the forgery of a college presidential citation, a dubious financial investment and academic favors.

"I will faithfully (explain everything) at the court hearing," Chung told reporters upon arrival at the court amid flashes of cameras by the press.

The wife of former Justice Minister Cho Kuk (C) appears at the Seoul Central District Court in southern Seoul on Oct. 23, 2019, for a hearing that will decide whether an arrest warrant for her should be issued. (Yonhap)

The prosecution's probe into Cho's family is expected to be affected by whether Chung will be taken into custody.

If the warrant is issued, the prosecution's investigation will gain traction, with the possibility of it calling in Cho. But if rejected, the agency will face public criticism that the probe is excessive.

A court decision is expected to come out late Wednesday night or early Thursday.

The arrest warrant for Chung was sought over 11 charges that include obstruction of business, embezzlement and involvement in destruction of evidence. Chung has denied the allegations.

The 57-year-old Chung is alleged to have been involved in fabricating a college presidential citation related to voluntary service activity by her daughter at Dongyang University in Yeongju, 230 kilometers southeast of Seoul.

As for the investment in the PEF, she faces allegations of embezzlement and violating the capital market law.

Chung and her two children invested more than 1 billion won (US$851,281) into the PEF, which was actually owned by a relative of Cho, after Cho was named a senior presidential secretary for civil affairs in May 2017.

The prosecution has been looking into allegations that Chung conspired with the now-arrested relative over the investment.

Whether Chung's health could affect the court's decision will be one of the focal points for Wednesday's hearing. Citing MRI test results, her legal representatives said she has recently been diagnosed with a brain tumor and cerebral infarction.

The latest developments came a week after Cho abruptly resigned amid controversy about whether he was suitable for the Cabinet post.

A key architect for President Moon Jae-in's drive to reform the prosecution, Cho was appointed on Sept. 9 despite objections from opposition parties.

After his appointment, protesters staged street rallies for and against his appointment and prosecution reform measures.

Supporters of Cho called for thorough reform of the elite investigative agency and branded the prosecution's probe into his family a politically charged one.


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