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With wife in custody, ex-minister Cho likely to face questioning

Former Justice Minister Cho Kuk will likely face the prosecution in the coming weeks for questioning over corruption allegations involving his family.

Cho Kuk (Yonhap)
Cho Kuk (Yonhap)

Chung Kyung-shim, his wife, was arrested early Thursday morning after the Seoul Central District Court granted an arrest warrant upon a review hearing the previous day.

Prosecutors suspect Cho was complicit in his wife’s alleged crimes, or at least was aware of them.

But prosecutors are unlikely to file an arrest warrant for Cho, since the court’s usual practice is to allow only one member of an accused couple to be detained.

Han Dong-soo, director general of the inspection department at the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, also said he will look into claims of human rights violation during Cho’s probe. Earlier, the Democratic Party of Korea took issue with prosecutors’ prolonged search of Cho family house.

Han said he would do so if he finds evidence of a violation once the investigation is over.

Liberal and conservative fronts remained divided over Chung’s arrest.

As a vocal defender of Cho, the ruling Democratic Party did not release an official statement on the latest development in the corruption scandal.

“At the moment, we’re not releasing any statement. We will do that as we see it fit,” said Hong Ik-pyo, spokesman for the ruling Democratic Party.

At a meeting with party members, Democratic Party Floor Leader Lee In-young said, “We respect the court’s decision. We’ll see how the trial unfolds.”

A spokeswoman for the Justice Party struck a similar chord, saying, “We respect the court’s decision, but the arrest isn’t the final ruling for Chung.”

Unlike the liberal bloc, conservatives were eager to speak volumes about the court’s decision.

“Considering (Chung’s) attempts to destroy evidence, it’s no wonder the court arrested her. It means the corruption allegations involving her family are more than suspicions,” said Liberty Korea Party spokesperson Kim Myung-yeon in a statement.

“It’s time that prosecutors take on Cho,” he added.

The minor conservative Bareunmirae Party released a similar statement, noting, “A stellar team of 18 lawyers defending Chung proved powerless before Lady Justice.”

“Prosecutors should now go after Cho, under no favorable terms whatever,” the statement read.

Now at the Seoul Detention Center, Chung will undergo further questioning there.

Chung faces 11 charges, including fabricating a document to support her daughter’s university application, obstructing business, insider trading, embezzlement and withholding evidence.

By Choi Si-young (