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A strange court decision

Oct 11,2019
A court shot down the prosecution’s request to arrest Justice Minister Cho Kuk’s brother for further investigations. Prosecutors protested the rejection, given the gravity of the charges, the suspect’s de facto admission to key allegations against him, the arrests of two other suspects on bribery and the extent of the destruction of evidence. The court has become stricter in issuing detention warrants for suspects as our criminal and judiciary procedures are becoming less rigid. Still, the court’s decision raises many questions.

First, the likelihood of the court issuing an arrest warrant for Cho’s younger brother was nearly 100 percent because the suspect failed to appear at the warrant hearing to make his defense. Giving up self-defense is more like admitting the charges. According to a study based on files at the Supreme Court, in only one out of 101 cases when the suspect did not show up to a warrant deliberation hearing from 2015 to 2017, did they avoid getting arrested. The Seoul Central Court went further. It did not issue any detention warrant during the period. A lawmaker of the ruling party cited the study after former President Lee Myung-bak did not show up for his arrest warrant hearing. But Lee ended up being arrested.

The zero-percent odds, however, made an exception for Cho’s brother. Two people have already been arrested for receiving kickbacks in return for giving aspiring teachers jobs at Ungdong Middle School run by the Cho family. But Cho’s brother, who arranged the exchange, avoided an arrest. How could an exception be made on Cho’s brother when most people, even the former president, could not avoid their arrests?

What really makes Cho any different from the other suspects? His brother vows to see through prosecution reforms. He plans to rewrite prosecutorial guidelines to protect the human rights of suspects. A think tank led by a close confidante of President Moon accused the Supreme Court and the prosecution under current chiefs of waging a witch hunt-like investigation and ruling.

No matter what excuse the court comes up with, no one can deny that Cho’s family is under special protection. The public skepticism is about to spread to the court.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 10, Page 30