Former Justice Minister Cho Kuk. (Yonhap)
Embattled former Justice Minister Cho Kuk is facing fresh allegations of power abuse.
In addition to the corruption scandal involving his family, Cho is suspected of wrongly suspending the internal inspection of a senior official in 2017 and pushing for a police investigation to influence the Ulsan mayoral election in 2018. Cho was a senior presidential secretary at both times.
Yoo Jae-soo, the senior official who is a former Busan vice mayor for economic affairs, attended the arrest warrant hearing Wednesday at the Seoul Eastern District Court. He is accused of accepting bribes when he was working at the Financial Services Commission and later at Busan Metropolitan City.
Cho’s team had looked into Yoo’s alleged misconduct from October to December 2017 but did not press charges against Yoo, who resigned shortly after the inspection and became the Busan vice mayor in June 2018. Prosecutors have reportedly secured testimonies incriminating Cho.
Cho also faces suspicion that his office offered tips to the local police to influence the local elections in 2018.
In 2018, the Ulsan Metropolitan Police Agency investigated the associates of then-sitting Ulsan Mayor Kim Gi-hyeon on intelligence from Cho’s office that they were bribed by local businessmen. Kim, whose associates were later cleared of the charges, lost the election to a rival, a close friend of President Moon Jae-in.
Cho had oversight of ranking officials including presidential appointees and his close relatives, but not elected officials. Cho could face election rule violations if he is found to have tipped off the police.
Meanwhile, prosecutors are also looking into whether Hwang Un-hah, then-commissioner of Ulsan Metropolitan Police Agency, abused his power. Hwang, now Daejeon Metropolitan Police Agency commissioner, has submitted his resignation letter, but the police are withholding it citing the ongoing investigation.
Hwang is reportedly preparing for next year’s general elections on the ruling Democratic Party of Korea’s ticket.
Cheong Wa Dae expressed concern over the ongoing investigations, with the spokesperson saying, “We notify government bodies of intelligence if it relates to corruption suspicions. We express regret that the media suggest we had ulterior motives.”
By Choi Si-young (email@example.com