South Korea’s new justice minister confronted by multiple scandals

by WorldTribune Staff, September 19, 2019

South Korean President Moon Jae-In pushed through his appointment of Cho Kuk to head up the country’s Justice Ministry despite numerous allegations of “unethical and illegal activities,” a report said.

Allegations against the newly-appointed Justice Minister include “corruption, abuse of power, and subversive activities against the state,” Tara O, Director of the East Asia Research Center, wrote in a Sept. 19 report.

South Korean President Moon Jae-In. / Photo by / Creative Commons / CC BY 4.0

South Korean conservatives see Moon’s agenda as consolidating his administration’s power through “reforms” of the judicial infrastructure including prosecutors and judges.

Related: Justice Ministry nominee in Seoul, with financial ties to China, has not renounced communist past, September 5, 2019

Moon is expected to meet President Donald Trump next week when the UN General Assembly convenes.

Several conservative lawmakers shaved their heads in protest of Moon’s appointment of Cho. The act is a long-standing tradition of protest in South Korea.

Conservative Liberty Korea Party leader Hwang Kyo-Ahn said, after having his head shaved: “This is my warning to President Moon Jae-In: Do not go against the will of the people any further. This is my ultimatum to Cho Kuk: Step down voluntarily from your post and receive an investigation from prosecutors.”

One of Cho Kuk’s “many scandals,” Tara O wrote, “is his family’s investment in the private equity fund at Co-Link Private Equity (PE) firm, which is owned by Cho Kuk’s nephew, Cho Beom-Dong. Cho Beom-Dong and all of the other employees of Co-Link immediately left the country soon after the scandal broke, but he returned to South Korea and was arrested at the airport on Sept. 14. Cho Beom-Dong has been charged with a variety of illegal activities, including embezzlement and destruction of evidence.”

Cho Kuk’s family has also been linked to a ship suspected of violating sanctions against North Korea, the report said.

The ship, Dongchin Shanghai was sold to a Chinese shipping company in June 2017. It was renamed Xin Sheng Hai (New Shanghai), under a Belize flag. The UN reported that the ship transported coal from Nampo Port in North Korea to China and Vietnam during July-August 2017. At that time, the ship kept its South Korean registry. The Xin Sheng Hai ship subsequently visited the South Korean ports of Incheon, Busan, Pohang, and Yeosu from October-November 2017 in violation of the sanctions against North Korea.

The report noted that Cho Kuk’s wife, Jeong Kyung-Sim, along with Cho and Jeong’s adult daughter and adult son “signed an agreement to invest up to ₩7.455 billion ($7 million), which is more than Cho Kuk’s reported wealth of about $ 5 million, in the ‘Blue Core ValueUp Private Equity Fund’ on July 31, 2017. This occurred about two months after Cho Kuk became the Senior Secretary for Civil Affairs and Justice at the Blue House under Moon Jae-In, who won the special presidential election in 2017. Three additional people invested in the fund; they are Cho Kuk’s wife’s brother Jeong Kwang-Bo and his two sons.”

The Korea Herald reported on Sept. 17 that Cho Kuk’s wife has been indicted and his daughter has been subpoenaed in a widening college admission scandal.

Allegations have also surfaced that Cho’s daughter received special treatment in her admission to a top university in Seoul and a medical school in Busan.

Prosecutors also have indicted Cho’s wife on suspicions of manipulating an award issued to her daughter from a university in the southern city of Yeongju where she works as a professor.

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