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With wife in custody, ex-justice minister to face questioning

Former Justice Minister Cho Kuk (front). (Yonhap)
Former Justice Minister Cho Kuk (front). (Yonhap)
Former Justice Minister Cho Kuk will likely face the prosecution in the coming weeks for questioning over corruption allegations involving his family. His wife, Chung Kyung-shim, was arrested early Thursday morning.

Prosecutors suspect Cho was complicit in his wife’s alleged crimes, or at least was aware of them. But they are unlikely to file an arrest warrant for Cho, since the court’s usual practice is to allow only one member of an accused couple to be detained.

Meanwhile, Han Dong-soo, director general of the inspection department at the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, said he will look into claims of human rights violation during Cho’s probe. The Democratic Party of Korea took issue with prosecutors’ prolonged search of Cho’s residence.

Han said he would do so if he finds evidence of a violation once the investigation is over.

Liberal and conservative fronts remained divided over Chung’s arrest. As a vocal defender of Cho, the ruling Democratic Party did not release a statement on the corruption scandal.

“At the moment, we’re not releasing any statement. We will do when we see it fit,” said Hong Ik-pyo, spokesperson for the ruling Democratic Party. At a meeting with party members, Democratic Party Floor Leader Lee In-young said, “We respect the court’s decision. We’ll see how the trial unfolds.”

A spokesperson for the Justice Party struck a similar chord, saying, “We respect the court’s decision, but the arrest isn’t the final ruling for Chung.”

But, conservatives spoke volumes about the court’s decision. 

“Considering (Chung’s) attempts to destroy evidence, it’s no wonder the court arrested her. It means the corruption allegations involving her family are more than suspicions,” Kim Myung-yeon, spokesperson for the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, said in a statement. “It’s time that prosecutors take on Cho.”

The minor conservative Bareunmirae Party expressed similar sentiments, saying, “Prosecutors should now go after Cho, under no favorable terms whatsoever.” It said, “A stellar team of 18 lawyers defending Chung proved powerless before Lady Justice.”

Chung, who is at the Seoul Detention Center, will undergo more questioning there. She faces 11 charges, including fabricating a document to support her daughter’s university application, obstructing business, insider trading, embezzlement and withholding evidence.

By Choi Si-young (siyoungchoi@heraldcorp.com)
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