A spiraling series of allegations ranging from his dubious investment in a private equity fund to his involvement in a left-leaning group have cornered Cho Kuk since he was nominated as justice minister earlier this month.
Cho Kuk (Yonhap)
What appears to be further pushing him into the corner are allegations surrounding his daughter’s college admission, with young Koreans planning to hold candlelight vigils in protest of the former progressive icon.
Cho is facing criticism over his 28-year-old daughter, who is embroiled in allegations that she received preferential treatment in the process of entering one of the prominent universities in Seoul -- Korea University -- with a controversial academic paper.
Though the allegations have not been confirmed, and Cho himself has dismissed them as “fake news,” young Koreans have cried foul over what they called an unfair system where only the rich and the powerful -- regardless of their political ideologies -- enjoy privileges in the cut-throat education system.
“If the allegations were true, I think it is unfair. It is right that her admission should be revoked,” said a 23-year-old student at Korea University, who only wanted to be identified by her surname Kang. “It doesn’t make sense for a high school student to be listed as a primary author after a short internship.”
“This kind of cases where powerful figures may not follow fair procedures just dash my hopes that I could be rewarded for my hard work,” she said. “It is disappointing.”
Cho’s daughter was listed as a primary writer for a pathology paper published in a renowned medical journal after a two-week internship at a medical science institute under Dankook University in 2008 as a high school student. Critics speculate that the paper may have helped her earn a place in Korea University in 2010.
The Korean Academy of Medical Sciences on Thursday raised doubts in a statement about whether it was legitimate to list Cho’s daughter as a primary author, given the timing of her participation in research.
Dankook University on Thursday launched a fact-finding committee for an internal inspection into whether it was fair to list Cho’s daughter as a primary writer. It could take up to 90 days until the result comes out.
Pusan National University’s Medical School, where Cho’s daughter is attending, also said Thursday it is internally reviewing her admission process.
Korea University said Wednesday it would consider canceling the admission of Cho’s daughter if the paper she summited was found to be flawed.
Cho, a former presidential secretary for civil affairs, on Thursday said he would not step down from nomination despite snowballing allegations involving his daughter, vowing to clarify all allegations at a parliamentary confirmation hearing.
“My family members and I should have behaved more prudently, given the enormous social benefits given to us,” Cho told reporters. “I will not sit idle on this issue by saying that there was no problem legally at the time. I will willingly accept the public’s harsh criticism.”
His confirmation hearing has not yet been scheduled.
Enraged by the allegations, students of Seoul National University, where Cho is a law professor, and Korea University said they would hold candlelight vigils at their campuses at 8:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. Friday, respectively.
Some angry students compared the case to the high-profile illegal college entrance scandal involving the daughter of Choi Soon-sil, a longtime confidante of now-jailed former President Park Geun-hye.
Choi was found guilty of peddling influence over Ewha Womans University to get her daughter, Chung Yoo-ra, accepted into the school, using her ties with the former president.
“If the allegations surrounding Cho’s daughter were true, it is wrong,” said Kim Tae-oh, 20, who is attending Korea University.
“But I am not even surprised because I think social mobility is already nonexistent and such unfairness is not likely fixed.”
The main opposition Liberty Korea Party and minor opposition Bareunmirae Party on Thursday filed complaints against Cho and his daughter with the prosecution regarding the allegations