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Justice minister's son summoned over allegedly forged internship certificates

The prosecution has summoned the son of Justice Minister Cho Kuk over suspicions that allegedly false internship certificates issued for him might have been used in his applications to graduate schools.

The 23-year-old son was called in Tuesday as prosecutors are looking into alleged forgery of certificates over his internship experience at an institution of public interest and human rights at Seoul National University, where his father serves as a law professor.

His summons is part of prosecutors' widening probe into a set of corruption allegations involving the minister's family. State prosecutors raided Cho's residence on Monday, two weeks after he was appointed as justice minister.

The SNU institution stands at the center of media attention over allegations that Cho's children, including his daughter, might have received preferential treatment in gaining admission to prestigious universities.

In 2017, his son got the certificate which says he worked as an intern at the SNU institute while he was in high school in 2013. He also earlier got a rare certificate stating that he is scheduled to take part in the internship.

Justice Minister Cho Kuk (Yonhap)
Justice Minister Cho Kuk (Yonhap)

Prosecutors are looking into suspicions that those documents might have been forged and used to help him apply for graduate schools, including law schools. Cho's son is currently studying at a graduate school of Yonsei University.

Similar internship certificates were issued for Cho's 28-year-old daughter and a son of a Dankook University professor who helped list her as the primary writer of a medical paper while she was still in high school.

The prosecution is reportedly looking into suspicions that Cho might have been involved in the issuance of those internship documents.

Cho denied the allegations on Monday, saying that he is "seriously" thinking about taking legal action about what he called a malicious media report that raised doubts about the minister's role.

He said his daughter participated in the internship program in 2009 and the organization issued the related certificate.

Cho's wife was indicted on Sept. 6 for alleged forging a college presidential citation to help her daughter enroll in a medical school in the southern city of Busan.

The controversy over Cho's family has emerged as an explosive political issue that has sent the approval rate for President Moon Jae-in to a record low.

The ruling bloc and supporters of the minister have denounced the investigation as a politically charged move intended to hamper the government's efforts to reform the prosecution.

President Moon's appointment of Cho reflects his firm commitment to reforming the elite investigative agency in a way that promotes political neutrality. The justice minister oversees the prosecution.

In his first public comment on the probe, Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl said Wednesday the investigation is being conducted in an appropriate manner. (Yonhap)