The court has turned down prosecutors’ request to make changes to the initial complaint filed against former Justice Minister Cho Kuk’s wife, Chung Kyung-shim, a professor at a private university.
Chung was indicted Sept. 6, the day of her husband’s confirmation hearing, on suspicion of having forged a document to influence her daughter’s admission to medical school.
During a pretrial hearing held Tuesday, the Seoul Central District Court rejected the prosecutors’ proposed modifications to the complaint on grounds that added details are “hard to acknowledge as belonging to an identical case.”
Prosecutors sought several changes, including the date and place of the suspected crime -- from Chung’s university office on Sept. 7, 2012, to her home in Seocho-gu, Seoul, in June 2013. They also named Chung’s daughter as her accomplice.
“The new complaint would mean the prosecutors’ admission of having found inconsistencies in their own indictment over the course of the investigation,” the court said.
Prosecutors disputed the court’s decision, saying “the basic facts constituting the crime remain unchanged.”
“We are building on the same facts surrounding the case, only with more details -- exactly when and where she forged the document, and who was complicit,” the information officer at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office told The Korea Herald.
Asked about the prosecutors’ next move, the officer said they may ask the court to reconsider accepting the revisions at the first or appeals trial. If not, the prosecutors may submit additional indictments.
In Tuesday’s session, the court also took issue with the tardiness with which prosecution probe records are being conveyed to Chung’s defense team.
Prosecutors also denied responsibility.
The information officer said the prosecutors offered Chung’s lawyers the records for reading and transcription at the end of November, about two to three days after receiving a court order to do so on Nov. 26.
“But the defendant’s lawyers did not commence the review of the records until Dec. 5, leading in turn to their inability to submit a statement at Tuesday’s hearing,” he said.
A former chief prosecutor who is now an attorney told The Korea Herald such changes in the complaint through court proceedings “are not out of the ordinary,” citing a precedent.
“There was a case in 2009 where the court granted prosecutors’ request to change the date of the crime despite a difference of some months, because it was apparent that they referred to the same case,” he said. “These are factual corrections that are not instrumental to the crime itself and subject to change based on findings of ensuing probes.”
Another prosecutor-turned-attorney told The Korea Herald modifications to complaints are “not easily approved” and that the decision is often “subjective.”
“If the court continues to reject the changes in the following proceedings, and the prosecutors fail to re-indict Chung by next June, the statute of limitations on the case -- seven years -- will have expired,” she added.
By Kim Arin (firstname.lastname@example.org