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No influence-peddling

Sept 17,2019
The prosecution’s investigation into suspicions around a private equity fund the family of Justice Minister Cho Kuk placed 1.4 billion won ($1.2 million) into is nearing a climax after prosecutors arrested Cho’s first cousin once removed who is believed to have the key to the mystery around the exclusive fund. The relative was arrested as soon as he arrived from the Philippines Saturday morning. Although he had no title in the fund, he drew hefty money from the Cho family and called up the fund’s legitimate CEO to ask him to lie about the financing, according to a leaked recorded tape.

Cho and others in the ruling party continue to raise voices for reform in the prosecution as if to discourage the investigation. Cho Jeong-sik, the policy head of the ruling Democratic Party (DP), claimed that the leaked information suggests political meddling by the prosecution and demands reforms of the top law enforcement agency through the Ministry of Justice.

The ministry said it was seeking revisions in the act so as to restrict public releases of the suspicions on the accused. Cho’s wife coincidentally wrote on Facebook that her rights of defense had been “seriously impaired” because of the leak of the taped conversation before its authenticity and context had been verified. The prosecution denied it was connected to the leak to the media. But the ruling party pressed on with the offensive as if to push the prosecution into a corner.

On the day his relative was arrested, Cho went to Busan to pay tribute to a former prosecutor who took his own life in 2016 under excess pressure from his bosses. Cho said he would uphold the deceased’s wishes and reform the recruitment, promotion and training system of the prosecution. He also vowed to toughen internal inspection and ordered that ideas be sought from reform-minded prosecutors like Lim Eun-jeong on the direction of reforms. Lim, who had to endure suspension and demotion for “insubordination” to the prosecutorial command, had accused the prosecution of an “excessive” investigation of Cho’s wife in order to cover up their own follies.

The synchronized movements from the ministry and ruling party can be suspected as an attempt to derail the prosecution’s investigation. A civic group has filed a complaint with the prosecution against the deputy justice minister and a senior head of the ministry over their attempt to exclude Prosecutor General Yoon from the investigations into Cho’s case. If the prosecution leaves any doubts in their investigations, the ruling party could be faced with serious public backlash.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 16, Page 30