(ATTN: UPDATES with Cho Kuk case in 2nd para, prosecution reform, other details in last 9 paras; ADDS byline)
By Lee Chi-dong
SEOUL, Jan. 2 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in appointed Choo Mi-ae, a judge-turned-politician, as justice minister Thursday, Cheong Wa Dae announced.
The move came more than two months after Cho Kuk stepped down from the post amid prosecutors' probe into a scandal involving family investment and university admissions for his children. Cho was later indicted on multiple charges, including bribery.
Moon nominated Choo, a five-term lawmaker who led the ruling Democratic Party, as justice minister on Dec. 5, 2019.
She went through the National Assembly's confirmation hearing last week. The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) refused to adopt a formal hearing report.
Moon requested lawmakers to forward the report to him by New Year's Day. The parliament has not sent it to him.
The president can appoint a minister without the National Assembly's approval, while such a confirmation hearing is mandatory.
Choo's tenure has already begun, Cheong Wa Dae said, with Moon expected to give her a letter of appointment in a formal ceremony later Thursday.
The installation of Choo, known for her determination to get things done, is expected to add momentum to the liberal Moon administration's prosecution reform drive.
Keen attention is being paid to Choo's measures related to the replacement of senior prosecutors that may put herself against Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl.
At the end of 2019, the National Assembly passed a bill calling for the establishment of a special anti-corruption investigation unit.
Slated to be launched as early as in July, the agency will be tasked with looking into graft and other wrongdoings by high-ranking government officials, including prosecutors.
It will be given the rights to indict judges, prosecutors and senior police officers, breaking the local prosecution's longtime monopoly of the authority.
The conservative LKP claimed that it would be used to conceal corruption, especially by Cheong Wa Dae officials.
It has also voiced concern about the pick of Choo, a political heavyweight, as justice minister less than half a year ahead of the April 15 general elections.
It is concerned that Choo may try to affect the prosecution service's probe into two major scandals involving some close aides to Moon.
Probes are under way into the allegations that Cheong Wa Dae meddled with last year's mayoral election in the southern city of Ulsan and that it blocked a 2017 internal inspection of Yoo Jae-soo, then director general at the Financial Services Commission, over suspicions of graft.
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