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Koreans disapprove of Cho Kuk nomination

Aug 27,2019
More than half of Koreans don’t want Cho Kuk as justice minister, according to a recent survey conducted by the JoongAng Ilbo and published on Monday.

In a survey of 1,000 adults via telephone last Friday and Saturday, after Cho promised to donate all of his family’s scandal-plagued wealth to society, 60.2 percent said they were opposed to having Cho as justice minister, while 27.2 percent said they were in support and 12.6 percent answered they didn’t know or refused to give a response.

Cho’s disapproval rating was higher than his approval rating in all age groups - 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s or above - and in every single area except the traditionally liberal Honam region of South Jeolla and North Jeolla. In Honam, 44.3 percent approved Cho as justice minister, while 40 percent disapproved. Cho’s disapproval rate in Seoul turned out to be 67.4 percent, around the same as the traditionally conservative regions of Daegu and North Gyeongsang, which tallied 69 percent.

Asked why they opposed having Cho as justice minister, 51.2 percent replied that Cho lacked the qualifications to “lead fairness and justice” due to his litany of allegations, while 32.1 percent said his words failed to match his actions.

When those who said that they were against Cho were asked to choose two of the allegations against Cho that they think are the main reasons why Cho should not be named justice minister, 55.4 percent chose the fact that his daughter was named the first author of a medical research paper when she was a high school student, followed by 44.4 percent who raised issue with her receiving scholarships multiple times at Pusan National University’s medical school, despite the fact that she had reportedly failed at least two semesters.

For those who support Cho serving as the head of the Ministry of Justice, 42.8 percent said he was fit to carry out reformation of the prosecution, 38.7 percent said they don’t think his allegations would get in the way of his work while 9.6 percent said they think the allegations were fake.

Regarding Cho’s fate, 51.6 percent said that a confirmation hearing should be held for him to explain whether the allegations are true or not, 29 percent said he should voluntarily resign as justice minister nominee while 14.3 percent said President Moon Jae-in must recant his nomination.

Opposition lawmakers cited the survey results Monday in their latest calls for Cho’s resignation, saying the public was totally against him.

Hwang Kyo-ahn, chairman of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP), said Cho needed to “do the right thing” by stepping down as the justice minister nominee, adding that if Moon goes ahead and taps him as head of the Justice Ministry, he and Cho will be “sternly judged” by the public and “walk the path of downfall.”

Rep. Na Kyung-won, floor leader of the LKP, said if prosecutors fail to investigate Cho in regards to the complaints filed against him by opposition lawmakers, then the National Assembly would have no other choice but to open a special probe on him.

Sohn Hak-kyu, chairman of the minor-right Bareunmirae Party, echoed LKP’s sentiment in saying that the just and fair society that Moon has vowed to create will go down the drain unless the president withdraws his nomination.

For the first time since Cho’s scandal broke last week, the student body of Seoul National University (SNU), where Cho teaches law, issued a statement Monday denouncing their professor, saying they urge Cho to resign as justice minister nominee so that Korea can become “a country where principle and common sense are maintained and a society where justice lives on.”

“Allegations against Cho raised by the media may not all be true,” read the statement, “but even as college students continue to ask him for an explanation, nominee Cho keeps refusing to give a clear-cut answer.”

On Friday evening, nearly 500 people gathered at SNU’s campus in Gwanak District, southwestern Seoul, to protest Cho’s nomination. A second rally at the school is scheduled for Wednesday at 8:30 p.m.

Among a list of allegations Cho faces are suspicious investments by his wife and two children in a private equity fund, dubious management of a private school foundation owned by his family, Cho’s daughter’s authorship credit in a medical research paper after finishing a two-week internship at Dankook University, her admission to Korea University and Pusan National University’s medical school and the scholarships she received at the latter.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN, KIM TAE-HO [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]