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Time to step away

Aug 28,2019
Justice minister nominee Cho Kuk has reiterated his will to see through prosecutorial reforms. Even as allegations and protests against his nomination grow despite his offer to donate his and his family’s money currently in a controversial private equity fund and school foundation, Cho outlined policy changes he would make as head of the justice ministry.

He vowed to establish some legal grounds for rearranging investigative rights between the prosecution and the police, set up a separate state office with the right to probe the corruption of high government officials and strengthen the public role of the prosecution. He also pledged to introduce a fine system according to wealth of the wrongdoers and a cap on state-led lawsuits. The measures are hardly new. But no ministerial candidate has ever unveiled proposed policy changes before a confirmation hearing. While serving as senior Blue House secretary for civil affairs, he reportedly told a number of minister nominees rejected by opposition lawmakers for their controversial riches to divert their attention with refreshing policy outlines.

“Reforms of the prosecution and judiciary administration are aspirations of all the people,” he said. But his comments drew skepticism from prosecutors as he can hardly earn respect to spearhead reforms due to the allegations revealed so far against him. Some nominees who had been screened by him expressed their anger for having faced judgment from someone with such stark contradictions. Cho has stained the promise of the liberal government to be fair, equal and just, and yet the Blue House still remains defensive of Cho, claiming all the allegations around him as “bogus.”

The ruling power can brush aside criticism from the opposition and some conservative media, but it cannot ignore outcries from young people who have become outraged from the betrayal of the once-iconic champion of righteousness. The student body of Seoul National University (SNU) issued a statement demanding Cho to resign from the nomination for betraying his own principles and common sense. A survey by an online community of SNU students showed that 95 percent opposed his appointment.

Nevertheless, Cho is clinging to the office as if he is upholding a crusade for justice and fairness. He has turned to the left-wing minority Justice Party for help, ignoring the conservative opposition.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office has referred more than ten accusations against Cho to a criminal office of the top law enforcement authority. Even if he becomes justice minister, he will have to face investigations. A person of reason and respect to the people would resign right now.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 27, Page 34