Justice minister nominee’s confirmation hearing to be next political battleground

By Kim Bo-gyung
  • Published : Aug 11, 2019 - 16:03
  • Updated : Aug 12, 2019 - 10:12

Cho Kuk has been tapped as justice minister nominee two weeks after leaving his post as senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, garnering mixed reactions across the aisle Sunday.

Cho, one of President Moon Jae-in’s most trusted aides, has been nominated justice minister in a Cabinet reshuffle announced last week, along with six other nominees to take key posts.

Of the seven nominees expected to undergo parliamentary hearings at the end of this month, Cho’s hearing is shaping up to be a battleground for the ruling Democratic Party of Korea and opposition parties.

Cho’s adamant belief in reforming the judicial branch, on top of his leading role in crafting fast-tracked bills -- adjusting authority between the police and the prosecution, and establishing a body to oversee and investigate high-level government officials -- are at the core of fierce objection by the main opposition Liberty Korea Party and minor conservative Bareunmirae Party.

Justice Minister nominee Cho Kuk enters an office in the Jongno district on Friday to prepare for the upcoming parliamentary hearing. (Yonhap)

Describing Cho Kuk as a figure fit to complete the judiciary reform, a top agenda item of the Moon government, Democratic Party Floor Leader Lee In-young said, “The reshuffle is indicative of (the government’s) clear willingness for judiciary reform.”

“He is the most suitable person to fulfill the judiciary reform,” said Rep. Song Ki-hun, assistant administrator of the ruling party on the National Assembly’s Legislation and Judiciary Committee.

In contrast, the Liberty Korea Party expressed vehement opposition against Cho’s nomination, with some hard-line members suggesting the party boycott Cho’s confirmation hearing.

“This is declaring war with the main opposition; it is far more than ignoring the main opposition,” said Liberty Korea Party Floor Leader Na Kyung-won.

Opposition parties are expected to home in on Cho’s left-leaning political views as being inappropriate for justice minister, a position that involves protecting the rule of law and remaining apolitical.

During his period in Cheong Wa Dae, he had asserted his opinions on sensitive sociopolitical issues on social media, including singing “March for the Beloved,” a song representative of the May 18 pro-democracy movement, in unison at the annual Gwangju Uprising event; backing the fast-tracked bill on a body to oversee and investigate high-level government officials; and condemning Japan’s recent export curbs.

“There is a high possibility nominee Cho Kuk, who is moving almost immediately after his term as senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, will take full control of the prosecution in connection with Cheong Wa Dae.

“Such a reshuffle that undermines the neutrality and independence of the prosecution is not preferable,” said Rep. Oh Shin-hwan of the minor opposition Bareunmirae Party, who is also assistant administrator on the National Assembly’s Legislation and Judiciary Committee.

Cho’s 5.5 billion won ($4.5 million) worth of assets, among other issues, are also expected to take center stage at the parliamentary hearing. 

By Kim Bo-gyung (