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Justice minister again refutes alleged personal request for extended military leave for son

All News 17:05 September 17, 2020

SEOUL, Sept. 17 (Yonhap) -- Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae said Thursday neither she nor her husband had personally called the military to request preferential extended leave for their son during his mandatory military service in 2017.

"I have never made (such) a request. I have also confirmed with my husband that he had not made any request either," Choo told lawmakers during a parliamentary interpellation session.

She was responding to a question from a lawmaker about a military record that claimed the soldier's parents called to help him extend his medical leave.

"My husband and I are too busy with work, and my son and daughters have grown up dealing with their problems on their own," she also noted.

The alleged power abuse case involving the justice minister is currently under a prosecution investigation and intense scrutiny by opposition lawmakers.

The case centers on allegations that Choo used her influence as the then chairwoman of the ruling Democratic Party to get her son, surnamed Seo, an extended 23-day leave for his knee surgery while he was serving in the Korean Augmentation to the United States Army (KATUSA) for the 2nd Infantry Division of the U.S. Eighth Army.

The military consulting record, which was revealed recently, claimed that requests were made by Seo's parents and Seo's initial 10-day medical leave was extended by nine more days and then by four more personal vacation days.

Adding to the allegations, an opposition lawmaker claimed Wednesday, citing anonymous sources, that a woman called the defense ministry's civil affairs office at that time in relation with the extension of Seo's military leave. The lawmaker also said the woman presented the name of Choo's husband for the record.

The case has emerged as the latest flashpoint between the ruling and opposition parties.

The main opposition People Power Party is casting Seo's extended military leave as preferential treatment that is not allowed for other conscripts and calling for Choo's resignation.

Choo pleaded with lawmakers to refrain from painting her son in an excessively derogatory light.

"The rights to medical treatment and vacations other conscripts enjoy should also be guaranteed for him," Choo said, adding that that should be the standard for assessing her son's military leave.

This photo shows Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae during a parliamentary interpellation session on Sept. 17, 2020. (Yonhap)

Other allegations against Choo include that her family filed special requests to get Seo assigned to the Yongsan Garrison in central Seoul, not in Uijeongbu, north of the capital, where he served his military term.

The family also allegedly sought to have him selected as an interpreter for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games.

pbr@yna.co.kr
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