Beleaguered Justice Minister nominee Cho Kuk appears to be sinking further into a quagmire as more allegations concerning his wife and daughter continued to emerge Thursday, with prosecutors accelerating their probe into the allegations.
A confirmation hearing for Cho is scheduled Friday.
Cho’s wife, a professor at Dongyang University, faces allegations that she forged a certificate for their daughter, now 28, under the name of the university’s president without his knowledge in 2012. The certificate was used to support the daughter’s medical school application and help her gain admission to Pusan National University Graduate School of Medicine in 2014.
After the prosecution raided her office Tuesday, Cho’s wife, surnamed Chung, allegedly asked Dongyang University’s President Choi Sung-hae to say he had given her the authority to issue the certificate.
“I am well aware of Professor Chung, and if I had granted such a certificate, I would remember it. I’ve never issued it for her daughter,” Choi told reporters early Thursday morning after being questioned by the prosecution.
Choi Sung-hae (Yonhap)
“It seems like she did so out of love for her daughter,” he said, adding the university has launched a fact-finding committee to investigate the allegations.
Cho said Thursday that he was checking facts and would explain everything at his confirmation hearing. Rival parties earlier in the day agreed to call in 11 people as witnesses for the hearing, but Dongyang University’s president was not included on the list.
A civic group on Thursday filed a complaint against Cho’s wife, taking issue with her allegedly pressuring the university to cover up the allegation.
Meanwhile, the prosecution is speeding up its investigation into other allegations concerning Cho and his family.
Prosecutors on Thursday conducted a search and seizure operation at Korea Investment & Securities to scrutinize Cho’s financial transactions in connection with allegations that Cho’s family illicitly made investments in a private equity fund.
Earlier Tuesday, the prosecution also raided the Korea International Cooperation Agency in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, where the justice minister nominee’s daughter did volunteer work as a high school student. It also summoned for questioning a Dankook University professor in connection with allegations Cho’s daughter received preferential treatment in the process of being admitted to a prominent university.
Cho denied all allegations and apologized in a rare press conference on Monday, but public sentiment remains sour.
Some 200 former and incumbent professors from universities around the country released a statement Thursday, urging the withdrawal of Cho’s nomination and the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the allegations surrounding him.
The student council of Seoul National University, from which Cho graduated and where he teaches law, also demanded he withdraw at a press conference held on campus earlier in the day, criticizing him for “accepting injustice” and “dodging responsibility.”
President Moon Jae-in is expected to press ahead with Cho’s appointment, regardless of the confirmation hearing report, as early as this weekend after returning from a six-day trip to three Southeast Asian countries Friday.