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Cho Kuk’s wife indicted on 14 additional charges

Nov 12,2019
Prosecutors indicted Chung Kyung-sim, 57, wife of scandal-plagued former Justice Minister Cho Kuk, on 14 additional charges Monday, bringing a total of 15 charges against her.

With Monday’s indictment, the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office has effectively wrapped up their probe into the English professor at Dongyang University in Yeongju, North Gyeongsang, a little over two months after they launched a massive probe into Cho and his family.

Cho, 54, once a core member of President Moon Jae-in’s inner circle, who served only 35 days as justice minister before resigning from the post last month, is expected to be summoned by prosecutors soon for questioning on a litany of allegations linked to his wife.

Cho currently serves as a professor at Seoul National University’s law school, and prosecutors believe he was aware of - and aided - his wife’s shady investments and efforts to pull strings for their daughter’s academic success. Both Cho and Chung have denied all the suspicions against them.

The first time Chung was indicted by prosecutors was Sept. 6, just moments after Cho’s parliamentary confirmation hearing for justice minister wrapped up. Prosecutors at the time indicted Chung for allegedly creating a Dongyang University presidential award for her daughter - without the knowledge of the president of the university - and secretly placing his seal on the award.

Prosecutors normally indict a suspect after they’ve been questioned, but Chung was indicted that night without any questioning because the statute of limitations for her charge was about to expire the very next day on Sept. 7.

In the following weeks, prosecutors managed to detain her and question her multiple times, which led to their determination on Monday to press 14 more charges against her, including obstruction of business, fraud, embezzlement and instigation of tampering, hiding and destroying evidence.

Prosecutors suspect Chung obstructed the admissions procedures of the medical schools at Pusan National University and Seoul National University by having her daughter submit the fake Dongyang University presidential award. Chung’s daughter eventually got accepted by Pusan’s medical school.

Chung also allegedly listed her daughter as a research assistant for an English education center at Dongyang, which at the time was headed by Chung, to embezzle 3.2 million won ($2,700) worth of state funds.

Prosecutors think Chung got hold of secret information related to a company that was invested in by a private equity fund she effectively operated, and used fake names to buy the company’s shares, later hiding the certificates of those shares in her younger brother’s house. Chung also allegedly signed a fake contract with Co-Link Private Equity, which managed the private equity fund, to receive nearly 158 million won worth of consulting fees.

Other charges include that she allegedly ordered her asset manager to destroy evidence on her computers and hide their hard disks from prosecutors.

Cho wrote on his Facebook Monday that he was “devastated” by his wife’s indictment and apologized to the public for “causing a huge burden to state affairs.”

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]