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Court confirms 4-year jail term for Cho Kuk’s wife

Appellate court sees her guilty of forging documents for college admissions

Chung Kyung-sim, the wife of former Justice Minsiter Cho Kuk (Yonhap)
Chung Kyung-sim, the wife of former Justice Minsiter Cho Kuk (Yonhap)
An appellate court on Wednesday upheld a four-year prison term for Chung Kyung-sim, the wife of former Justice Minister Cho Kuk, for forging documents to help her daughter gain admission to medical school and for other actions concerning a private equity fund.

But the Seoul High Court lowered Chung’s fine to 50 million won ($43,000) and lowered her forfeiture to 10.61 million won. In December the Seoul Central District Court had fined her 500 million won and ordered her to forfeit 140 million won.

The 58-year-old Dongyang University professor was indicted in November last year on 15 charges, including falsifying official documents, obstruction of business, insider trading, embezzlement and withholding evidence.

The court ruled she was guilty of all the charges, having worked with her husband to falsify awards and other official documents by using the seal of a university president in 2012 to support her daughter’s medical school application from 2013 to 2014.

Their 29-year-old daughter, Cho Min, is currently working as an intern at Hanil General Hospital in Seoul after earning her medical license in January. Both the appellate and lower courts said the daughter might not have gained admission to Pusan National University without the forged certificates and awards.

The court also found Chung guilty of some, though not all, charges in connection with the private equity fund.

The appellate court ruled that Chung had instructed her asset manager to conceal her office computer and delete documents related to the private equity fund, but found her not guilty of obstructing the investigation or attempting to destroy evidence.

Prosecutors had asked the appellate court for seven years in prison, a fine of 900 million won and a forfeiture of 160 million won -- the same penalties they sought during the first trial.

Kim Chil-joon, defense attorney of Chung Kyung-sim, answers questions from reporters Wednesday following Seoul High Court`s ruling on Chung. (Yonhap)
Kim Chil-joon, defense attorney of Chung Kyung-sim, answers questions from reporters Wednesday following Seoul High Court`s ruling on Chung. (Yonhap)
Chung’s defense called the ruling prejudiced, saying it would appeal the case to the Supreme Court after further review. But the top court’s ruling is not expected to be much different, as many of the facts have already been verified.

“The lower court ruling was prejudiced and was full of preconceptions rather than being logically sensible, so we expected to fix this during the appeal process,” Chung’s defense attorney Kim Chil-joon told reporters after the ruling.

“Today’s ruling is largely a repeat of what was sentenced in the lower court, which is shameful and regretful.”

If Chung accepts the ruling and does not appeal, there is a chance that it might affect her daughter’s academic credentials.

Korea University, where Cho Min earned her undergraduate degree, had said it would set up appropriate administrative procedures in accordance with the court ruling. Some of the forged documents were used for her admission to Korea University as an undergraduate.

Pusan National University, where Cho Min studied medicine, is conducting an internal investigation on the validity of her admission, which is expected to take another three to four months. If her admission is canceled, her medical license will also be nullified.

The ruling on Chung is also likely to affect the upcoming court procedures for her husband, Cho Kuk.

He is facing trial in the Seoul Central District Court for abusing his power to help his children gain admission to college. A court found that Cho Kuk was directly involved in providing some of the documents Chung forged.

By Ko Jun-tae (ko.juntae@heraldcorp.com)
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