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(LEAD) Appellate court upholds 4-year prison term for ex-justice minister's wife

All News 14:04 August 11, 2021

(ATTN: UPDATES with details of ruling, reactions from 6th para; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, Aug. 11 (Yonhap) -- An appellate court on Wednesday upheld a four-year prison sentence for the wife of former Justice Minister Cho Kuk over academic fraud.

The Seoul High Court found Chung Kyung-sim, a professor of Dongyang University, guilty of all charges related to the unfair college admission of her daughter and upheld the lower court's sentence of four years.

This file photo, taken Dec. 23, 2020, shows Chung Kyung-sim, wife of former Justice Minister Cho Kuk, arriving at the Seoul Central District Court in southern Seoul to attend her sentencing hearing. (Yonhap)

The appellate court, however, lowered her fine from 500 million won (US$433,000) to 50 million won and her forfeiture from 140 million won to 10 million won.

"(The defendant) disrupted the educational institutions' admissions system and seriously damaged our society's trust in the system's fairness," the court said in its ruling.

Chung was convicted of forging a presidential citation from Dongyang University and getting a false internship certificate to use for her daughter's admission to a medical school in 2013.

The court said Chung blamed the admissions system for her crimes and shifted responsibility for the false documents to the people who wrote them as a favor to the family.

The professor was also indicted on charges of financial misconduct and convicted of some of them.

As in the initial ruling, the Seoul High Court found her guilty of trading in stocks using an account under a false name.

But on charges that she used insider information to earn profits from WFM, a KOSDAQ-listed battery business, the court recognized only part of the sum cited by the lower court and acquitted her of the rest.

"The charge of trading in stocks using undisclosed information ... is a serious crime that creates risk of property loss to investors doing business in the stock market," the court said.

The professor was immediately taken into custody after the Seoul Central District Court sentenced her to four years in December.

On Wednesday, she was brought to the Seoul High Court to attend the second sentencing hearing, dressed in a white shirt and black suit.

Once the judge read the ruling, Chung left without showing any particular reaction.

Dozens of supporters stood inside and outside the court, wearing t-shirts printed with her husband's face and displaying a banner printed with the title of his recently published memoir, "Cho Kuk's Time."

Chung's attorney, Kim Chil-joon, expressed regret at the appellate ruling, saying it is "frustrating" that the bench applied today's standards to an admissions system that was in place a decade ago.

He added that Chung will likely appeal again.

Her husband, who was a close aide to President Moon Jae-in, resigned as justice minister in October 2019, just one month after taking office. He was later indicted on a dozen charges, including bribery, in connection with their children's academic credentials and school scholarship, as well as his family's suspicious private equity investments.

Kim Chil-joon, a lawyer for Chung Kyung-sim, wife of former Justice Minister Cho Kuk, speaks to reporters at the Seoul High Court on Aug. 11, 2021, after attending her sentencing hearing over allegations of academic fraud. (Yonhap)

hague@yna.co.kr
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