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Indecent haste

Oct 17,2019
Seoul National University (SNU) on Monday swiftly accepted former Justice Minister Cho Kuk’s request to return to the prestigious Law School, where he was teaching criminal law before his appointment as senior Blue House secretary for civil affairs in 2017 and justice minister in August. SNU granted re-admission to Cho immediately after he resigned as justice minister on Monday.

Before leaving the Justice Ministry, Cho said he was sorry for all the controversy about his family, which is being investigated on a raft of suspicions. But he has once again infuriated the young generation that resents the kind of privileges his children received from universities. We are dumbfounded at the way the top-caliber university handled the situation.

Cho took a 24-month leave from the law school after being appointed presidential secretary for civil affairs shortly after the launch of the Moon Jae-in administration in May 2017. After resigning as secretary in July, he returned to the school on Aug. 1. Then, after Moon appointed him justice minister on Sept. 9, he once again quit the law school. Now he has returned to the campus. The critical damage to his reputation from his alleged involvement in his daughter’s suspicious admission to Korea University — or the pain he inflicted on SNU and its students — did not matter. Cho did not make any apology to members of the university before returning to the school.

SNU students are expressing outrage at his brazen attitude, as seen in the cynical reactions from the university’s exclusive online community. A student ridiculed Cho for using the school as insurance, while another student wondered if a professor, now a suspect in a criminal case, should teach criminal law at the law school. In a poll conducted by SNULife, an online community, 93 percent opposed his return to school while only 4 percent endorsed it.

SNU’s reaction to Cho’s return is utterly disappointing. The administrative office of the university accepted his application for return just two hours after he sent the request via fax, and approved it on the following day electronically without any consideration of all the shame Cho put on the reputation of the top university.

SNU says there is no problem, as it followed a legitimate procedure. But such an explanation is devoid of any consideration of the gravity of the issue and cannot be accepted. The university even skipped the essential process of collecting internal opinions from students and professors on campus. Why such a hurry? Experts attribute it to the university’s need to pay heed to the Ministry of Education down the road.

Professor Cho has no obligation to teach or write an academic paper this semester, and yet he receives over 8 million won ($6,726) in his monthly paycheck. Who else enjoys such a free ride in this country? Despite his deft way of returning to campus, Cho did not report to work on Wednesday. Students enraged by his double standards are planning to stage a rally in front of his office. We hope SNU does not brush them off — as it has an elementary sense of decency.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 17, Page 30