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Prosecutors summon justice minister’s wife for questioning

Minister’s spouse grilled for 8 hours

Prosecutors in Seoul on Thursday grilled Justice Minister Cho Kuk’s wife for eight hours on various corruption allegations involving her family. The questioning stopped at around 5 p.m. at her request, citing health concerns.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office said Chung Kyung-shim was summoned at around 9 a.m. for questioning regarding allegations of manipulating her daughter’s college and medical school applications and shady investment in a private equity fund, as well as attempting to destroy evidence.

Prosecutors said that she would be summoned again due to the vast scope of the investigation.

Justice Minister Cho leaves home in Bangbae-dong, Seoul, Wednesday morning. (Yonhap)
Justice Minister Cho leaves home in Bangbae-dong, Seoul, Wednesday morning. (Yonhap)

Chung was indicted Sept. 6, the day of her husband’s confirmation hearing, on suspicion of having forged a document to influence her daughter’s admission to medical school.

Chung, a professor at a private university, stands accused of forging a certificate issued in the university president’s name, which was submitted as part of her daughter Cho Min’s 2015 application to a medical school in Busan.

Other suspected inconsistencies in the minister couple’s daughter’s school applications include illegitimate authorship of a medical paper and phony internship credentials. She is suspected of having orchestrated the illicit efforts in the application process.

However, Thursday’s inquiry is expected to focus more on the family’s shady investment practices while Cho served at Cheong Wa Dae as a senior presidential secretary.

In July 2017, Chung and her two children invested some 1.05 billion won ($871,600) in Blue Core Value-Up 1, operated by Co-Link Private Equity. Co-Link is believed to be owned by Cho’s relative.

WFM, a company which Co-Link acquired in October 2017, saw a drastic surge in sales following investments by the Cho, winning 117 projects from 47 state institutions.

Prosecutors suspect Chung’s complicity with the minister’s relative in embezzling 1.3 billion won out of WFM and are looking into the extent of her participation in Co-Link’s operations.    

Chung is also suspected of having a family asset manager replace computer hard disk drives at home and at her university office after prosecutors launched a criminal investigation into the minister’s family in August.

The Korea Investment & Securities official, surnamed Kim, 36, told prosecutors he visited the Cho family’s residence in Bangbae-dong, southern Seoul, Aug. 29 upon Chung’s request. He also said the minister had thanked him for his help.

Last month, Cho’s daughter, 28, and son, 23, were questioned by prosecutors in a related probe.

By Kim Arin (