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[Newsmaker] Cho Kuk appears for questioning in power abuse probe

Former Justice Minister Cho Kuk (Yonhap)
Former Justice Minister Cho Kuk (Yonhap)
Former Justice Minister Cho Kuk appeared at the Seoul Eastern District Prosecutors’ Office for questioning Monday.

While in charge of the Blue House civil affairs and justice office, Cho is accused of wrongly suspending an internal investigation of former Busan Vice Mayor Yoo Jae-soo in 2017, then a senior official at the Financial Services Commission. In detention, Yoo was indicted Friday.

Prosecutors grilled Cho on his alleged involvement in the abrupt cessation of the internal inspection.

On Sunday, local media reported Yoon Do-han, senior secretary to the president for public communication, denied that the Blue House stopped the inspection. He said Cho’s office ran the inspection when it had no investigative authority to do so.

Yoon also said Yoo did not agree to the internal inspection, so the inspection had to stop anyway.

“Whether or not to refer him (Yoo) to the appropriate law enforcement authority or any other government ministry for that matter rests with the civil affairs and justice office,” Yoon said. “Please no conjectures until we see what prosecutors have to say at the end of the investigation underway.”

Prosecutors disagreed, saying those in charge of the inspection would be in abuse of their office if they came to halt an inspection when malfeasance surfaced.

On the same day, Yoon also addressed prosecutors’ earlier briefing on Yoo’s alleged crimes, saying some of the prosecutors’ contentions were just not true.

Prosecutors immediately rebutted, maintaining the Blue House had no knowledge of facts or evidence in Yoo’s case.

Yoon also rejected claims that other senior Blue House officials asked the civil affairs and justice office to suspend the inspection of Yoo at the time, but Yoo reportedly told prosecutors that he had asked those presidential office officials to halt the internal probe.

By Choi Si-young (