Embattled Justice Minister nominee Cho Kuk on Sunday apologized over a series of allegations involving his daughter, but expressed determination to undergo a confirmation hearing and help carry out the Moon Jae-in administration’s judicial reforms.
His apology comes amid growing calls from the opposition bloc to step down as he faces allegations on matters ranging from a dubious investment in a private equity firm to his daughter’s questionable university admission process.
“I tried to become a reformist, but I humbly confess that I was not strict enough and was easygoing (as a parent),” Cho said as he appeared at an office where he has been preparing for the confirmation hearing.
Cho, a former presidential secretary for civil affairs, is facing criticism over his 28-year-old daughter, who is suspected of having received preferential treatment in the process of entering one of the most prominent universities in Seoul with a controversial academic paper.
Cho’s daughter was listed as a primary author of a pathology paper published in a renowned medical journal after a two-week internship at a medical science institute under Dankook University in 2008, when she was still a high school student. Critics speculate that the paper may have helped her obtain a place at Korea University in 2010.
“Even though I followed the laws and institutions that existed at the time, I inflicted pain on the hearts of people and the young who could not access such institutions,” he said, admitting that his acts could lead to “maintaining privileges.”
“I am sorry to the public.”
But Cho made it clear he would not step down from the nomination. He vowed to clarify all allegations at the confirmation hearing, the date of which has not been set.
“I cannot put down a burden on my shoulder just because I and my family suffer,” he said. “I will do everything in my power to complete the reform mission of the Moon administration.”
Cho plans to announce a road map for the reform of the prosecution on Tuesday.
Among President Moon’s key campaign pledges was an initiative to check the prosecution’s power by redistributing investigative rights between the police and prosecution, and to make the law enforcement body politically neutral.
Amid worsening public sentiment, Cho said Friday that he would hand over his private equity fund -- a 1.05 billion won investment vehicle that faces questions over provenance -- and a school foundation to a nonprofit organization to be used for charity.
Still, nearly half of South Koreans appear to disapprove of Cho as a justice minister, a poll showed Sunday.
According to a survey of 1,015 people by Korea Research, 48 percent said it was “inappropriate” for Cho to serve as justice minister, while 18 percent said it was “appropriate.” Some 34 percent said was difficult to make a judgment right away.
The majority, or 65 percent of those surveyed, wanted the allegations over the university admission process involving Cho’s daughter to be clarified most, followed by allegations regarding Cho’s private equity fund at 13 percent and his school foundation at 10 percent.
The ruling Democratic Party of Korea and the opposition bloc are wrangling over the date of the confirmation hearing for scandal-ridden Cho.
The main opposition Liberty Korea Party is demanding a three-day confirmation hearing for him, instead of the usual one-day hearing, citing a need to clarify all the allegations.
If a date is not set by Monday, the Democratic Party of Korea plans to unilaterally arrange a hearing on Tuesday for Cho to be able to directly speak to the public.
Lawmakers from the Liberty Korea Party staged an anti-government rally at Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul on Saturday to denounce the Moon administration’s policies and its decision to nominate Cho.
By Ock Hyun-ju (email@example.com