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[Newsmaker] Ruling party seeks last-minute agreement on justice minister nominee hearing

The sticking point in Cho’s hearing has been whether to summon his family

Ruling Democratic Party Floor Leader Lee In-young said Sunday that the party would “wait until the last moment” for the main opposition party to agree to Justice Minister nominee Cho Kuk’s confirmation hearing, initially scheduled for Sept. 2-3.

“If the National Assembly’s Legislation and Judiciary Committee approves the hearing tomorrow (Monday) morning, a confirmation hearing can be held right away starting tomorrow (as scheduled),” Lee said during a press conference held Sunday.

“If an agreement is made today, it is feasible to hold a hearing tomorrow. We will wait until the last moment,” Lee added.

While urging the Liberty Korea Party to agree with the initial schedule, the ruling party adamantly maintained that a parliamentary confirmation hearing should take place as initially planned and not after Sept. 3.

If the main opposition Liberty Korea Party does not give the green light, the ruling party said it will hold a “public hearing.”

The sticking point in Cho’s hearing has been whether to summon his family -- mother, wife, daughter, younger brother and younger brother’s ex-wife -- as witnesses to testify on a number of allegations. They include: alleged college admissions irregularities of Cho’s daughter allegedly orchestrated by his wife; and allegations that his family took advantage of loopholes in the legal system for financial gain, investing a large portion of their assets in a private equity fund.

Ruling Democratic Party Floor Leader Lee In-young (center) speaks at a press conference held Sunday. (Yonhap)
Ruling Democratic Party Floor Leader Lee In-young (center) speaks at a press conference held Sunday. (Yonhap)

The prosecution has raided some 20 locations in Seoul and Busan related to allegations surrounding Cho and his family last week.

“Protecting one’s family is a constitutional value. The Liberty Korea Party insisting on a parliamentary hearing of a family violates the spirit of the law and human rights,” Lee said.

The main opposition party, on the other hand, refused to back down, saying a confirmation hearing without Cho’s family members is not an option.

“We will select (Cho’s family) as witnesses for the hearing, no questions asked,” said Liberty Korea Party Floor Leader Na Kyung-won.

“It has become difficult to hold a hearing on Sept. 2-3 (as planned). We will postpone the date.”

There have been four instances in which lawmakers reached an agreement on a parliamentary confirmation hearing date, according to Rep. Song Ki-hun, the ruling party’s assistant administrator on the Legislation and Judiciary Committee.

If a Legislation and Judiciary Committee meeting is not held Sunday, the party planned to submit a request with the committee Monday at 10 a.m., asking it to convene a general meeting, Song said.

The possibility of President Moon Jae-in going ahead with Cho’s appointment has also surfaced.

“If the National Assembly does not send a progress report, the President can ask for the report once more. If the National Assembly does not send a report after the second request, the President has no choice but to use his power to go ahead with the appointment,” ruling party spokesperson Rep. Hong Ihk-pyo said.

Amid a slew of accusations surrounding Cho and his family, support for his appointment has decreased.

According to a recent poll by Gallup Korea, 57 percent of respondents replied that Cho is not appropriate for the minister post, while support for him remained at 27 percent and 16 percent did not answer. The survey was conducted Aug. 27-29 and involved 1,004 adult respondents.

By Kim Bo-gyung (