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Ex-Justice Minister Cho refuses to open up during questioning

Former Justice Minister Cho Kuk refused to testify on all charges against him during an eight-hour questioning session by prosecutors Thursday.

Former Justice Minister Cho Kuk visiting his wife at the Seoul Detention Center (Yonhap)
Former Justice Minister Cho Kuk visiting his wife at the Seoul Detention Center (Yonhap)

“I deemed it unnecessary to answer their questions,” Cho said in a statement released by his attorney. “If the prosecutors decide to indict me, I will reveal the truth in court.”

Observers speculate that Cho, who teaches criminal law at Seoul National University, deliberately did so to gain time to learn what evidence the prosecutors have against him.

They suspect he did not want to contradict himself on the earlier testimonies given to lawmakers during the parliamentary confirmation hearing for his appointment as justice minister.

On Friday, Cho visited his wife detained at the Seoul Detention Center. She has been indicted on 15 charges including embezzlement, insider trading, obstructing business and destroying evidence.

Cho is accused of complicity in the alleged crimes.

Separately, he is alleged to have influenced battery firm WFM to undersell its shares to his wife while he was a senior secretary to President Moon Jae-in. If found guilty, Cho violated an ethics code for public officials and could face bribery charges.

He is also accused of fabricating a document to rig university applications of his son and daughter and of influencing the faculty of a medical school to grant his daughter a scholarship.

He is further accused of helping his brother to file fraudulent lawsuits against a family-owned school foundation.

Considering the number and gravity of charges and Cho’s silence, prosecutors are likely to summon him for more interrogations before asking the court to issue an arrest warrant.

By Choi Si-young (