The Korea Herald


[Editorial] Time for self-reflection

Cho, protected by opposition, found guilty; Now party going all out to defend its leader

By Korea Herald

Published : Feb. 6, 2023 - 05:30

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The prison sentence given to former Justice Minister Cho Kuk is founded on a court judgment that those who undermine the fairness of our society should be punished severely.

The court sentenced him to two years in jail. The ruling came three years and two months after he was indicted for forging his daughter's credentials to facilitate her admission into a medical school and abusing his power when he was senior presidential secretary for civil affairs. Cho strongly denied the charges, but the court found him guilty on most charges related to her school entrance.

The judgment was every bit reasonable. Now he needs to take time for self-examination in light of the court ruling.

The “Cho Kuk situation" revealed unfairness disguised as fairness and lies as truth. The nation was divided into pro- and anti-Cho forces, and the people suffered tremendous distress.

The Cho couple must apologize for undermining the fairness and justice of our society through foul play and privilege. Hypocritical self-rationalization cannot be tolerated any longer.

Not only Cho, but also those who have so far advocated him and his wife with sophistry and groundless arguments, must take the ruling as a chance for self-scrutiny.

The same is true of former President Moon Jae-in, who sowed the seed of the Cho Kuk situation.

Allegations involving Cho had been already circulating before he was appointed as justice minister, but Moon appointed him regardless.

Moon never apologized for social division over his appointment, but rather showed sympathy with Cho, saying he feels "indebted to Cho Kuk." Cho never admitted his wrongdoing and even published a memoir that criticizes prosecutors who investigated him.

The ruling punishes the self-righteous and hypocritical Cho and acts as a wake-up call to his supporters, including Moon.

Former Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae must reflect bitterly on herself for pressuring prosecutors who investigated allegations involving Cho and even excluding then-Prosecutor General Yoon Suk Yeol from his duty.

Cho's trial should have been done a long time ago. Though he faced many charges, there was a lot of clear evidence to show him guilty.

But the trial was delayed again and again after Chief Justice Kim Myeong-su, appointed by Moon, assigned the Cho case to Judge Kim Mi-ri, a former member of a private organization of left-leaning judges. Justice was long overdue.

Allegations involving Cho jolted Korean society in 2019. The nation was divided into his supporters and opponents as prosecutors' investigated him. Both sides confronted each other tensely and mutual animosity deepened.

At that time, Moon's Cheong Wa Dae and the governing Democratic Party of Korea stood on Cho's side. They refused to take the situation as a chance to scrutinize themselves but tried to "save Cho" by rallying his supporters.

Their divisive politics led to the party's defeat in the April 7, 2021 by-elections including ones for Seoul and Busan mayors, and yet little has since changed in their behavior. Like Cho did, they refused to admit their faults and kept on blaming news media and the opposition party. Disappointed at their hypocrisy and self-righteousness, people finally turned their backs on them in the presidential election last year.

The current situation resembles the time when allegations involving Cho broke out. The Democratic Party has assumed the role of saving Lee Jae-myung, its embattled leader facing an array of allegations. Whenever he appeared at the prosecutor's office to be questioned, pro- and anti-Lee crowds gathered in front of the office and chanted slogans.

The opposition party is intensifying confrontation with the administration and the ruling party ahead of the general election next year. It tries to depict the Yoon administration and prosecutors as their political oppressors despite being a majority party. Its lawmakers took their protests outside the National Assembly building.

The conviction of Cho is also a warning against divisive and confrontational politics. The Democratic Party seems to have failed to learn lessons from the Cho Kuk situation.

An "us-versus-them" or do-or-die confrontation helps no one. To avoid such a situation, those who did wrong must reflect on themselves, apologize to aggrieved parties and show an attitude of taking responsibility for their behavior.