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Attorney who defended sex criminals withdraws Democratic Party candidacy

By Jung Min-kyung

Published : March 22, 2024 - 17:13

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Human rights attorney Cho Soo-jin (left) poses for a photo with Democratic Party of Korea Chair Lee Jae-myung (center) and Ryu Sam-young, a former senior police superintendent, during a party election event held at the National Assembly in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap) Human rights attorney Cho Soo-jin (left) poses for a photo with Democratic Party of Korea Chair Lee Jae-myung (center) and Ryu Sam-young, a former senior police superintendent, during a party election event held at the National Assembly in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

A human rights lawyer who was nominated by the main opposition party to run as a candidate in the upcoming legislative election decided to withdraw her bid on Thursday, facing mounting criticism that she has provided legal defense to multiple convicted sexual offenders, including a child rapist.

Cho Soo-jin announced she would not run in the April 10 general election through a Facebook post merely three days after she won a primary against two-term lawmaker Rep. Park Yong-jin in a key district in northern Seoul.

"As an attorney, I always did my best for my clients. I sought to do the same for the Gangbuk-gu residents and the people with the same attitude if I became elected as a lawmaker,” she added.

Cho expressed hope that her resignation would lead to the Democratic Party of Korea’s success in the election and thanked party officials for their support.

Pressure had been increasing for Cho to withdraw her bid in recent days, after court documents and reports of her blaming the victims of sexual assault while representing multiple sex offenders surfaced.

A Seoul Western District Court document tied to a July 2023 ruling showed that Cho defended a local physician practicing East Asian medicine who a patient says sexually assaulted her during treatment.

Cho said the victim “showed a lack of signs as a true victim" of sexual assault, which the court denied by explaining that it would be wrong to define the behaviors of a victim of sexual assault in a certain way. The defendant ultimately received a one-year jail sentence for sexual assault.

That was followed by Cho’s decision to join the team of defense attorneys for a child rapist. The convicted rapist received a 10-year jail sentence from the Seoul High Court in September last year for sexual assault against a minor. The Supreme Court upheld the lower court ruling in December and convicted the defendant of violating the Act on Special Cases Concerning the Punishment Etc. of Sexual Crimes.

A Seoul High Court document showed that Cho attempted to defend the convict, an ex-martial arts coach who sexually assaulted an 11-year-old girl, by claiming the victim “had multiple sexual relationships with other men, including her father.” The court dismissed Cho's claim, citing a lack of evidence, and added that the “defendant and his attorney made it seem like the victim was attempting to blame the coach to cover up sexual relationships with multiple partners.”

Under the Act on Special Cases Concerning the Punishment Etc. of Sexual Crimes, those convicted of the sexual assault of victims aged 12 or younger face a minimum jail sentence of 10 years up to a lifetime in prison.

The Korea Network of Organized Women, a feminist civic group, on Tuesday had called for Cho’s resignation, pointing to a blog post she had written that gave advice to clients accused of sexual assault on how to find loopholes in the legal system.

The Democratic Party is set to pick a new candidate to replace Cho by late Friday, which is the deadline for candidate registration.