The Korea Herald


[Newsmaker] Choo apologizes for influence-peddling scandal involving son

Current and former justice ministers dent ‘fairness drive’ of Moon administration

By Choi He-suk

Published : Sept. 13, 2020 - 18:54

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Minister of Justice Choo Mi-ae (Yonhap) Minister of Justice Choo Mi-ae (Yonhap)

Minister of Justice Choo Mi-ae apologized Sunday over allegations she peddled influence to earn special favors for her son, but denied any wrongdoing.

“I feel deeply sorry for causing troubles to the people with issues involving my son,” she said in a Facebook post. But the minister said she has kept her principles strict and has never called “a black thing white.”

It has been alleged that Choo’s son was given favorable treatment in having his leave extended during his compulsory military service as a member of the Korean Augmentation to the United States Army from 2016 to 2018 due to Choo’s status as a politician. At the time of her son’s service, Choo was chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Korea, serving her fifth term in the National Assembly.

Choo’s aide and husband were purportedly involved in requesting favors in her son’s base placement and in the process of selecting interpreters for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

Although the requests were rejected, Choo’s son receiving favorable treatment with regards to leave has prompted the main opposition People Power Party to refer to the allegations as “mommy chance.”

The nickname refers also to the scandal that centered on former Justice Minister Cho Kuk and his family.

In the scandal that has led to a criminal investigation and Cho and his wife being put on trial, his daughter was alleged to have received inappropriate help from her parents in her studies, leading to the developments being called “daddy chance.”

While the allegations against Choo and Cho are relatively minor compared to past scandals involving high-level government officials and politicians, the developments have left a heavy dent in the image of President Moon Jae-in, who has stressed fairness from the outset.

“Opportunity will be equal in the Moon Jae-in and Democratic Party government. The process will be fair. The result will be just,” Moon said in his inauguration speech.

The promise, however, has come to be used more often by Moon’s opponents and those protesting specific policies than to laud the administration.

Moon’s personnel choices, most notably Choo and Cho, have also dealt a blow to his approval ratings. In the latest Gallup Korea poll, 46 percent of respondents positively assessed Moon’s performance, and 45 percent gave negative assessments. Of those negatively assessing Moon, 11 percent pointed to personnel management, making it the third most cited reason.

While personnel issues were among the biggest negative factors, previous occasions on which this has happened have not lasted long.

“Personnel issues were cited the most with regards to negative assessment of President Moon between June and July of 2017, and September to October 2019 from Cho Kuk’s appointment to resignation,” Gallup Korea said in the weekly report published Thursday.

“In the above periods, personnel issues were the top ranked reason for negative assessment, accounting for around 30 percent.”

By Choi He-suk (