The National Assembly judiciary committee agreed Monday to convene a two-day confirmation hearing starting Sept. 2 on Justice Minister nominee Cho Kuk, who is plagued by a series of allegations involving his daughter and family.
The ruling Democratic Party of Korea and the opposition bloc had bickered over the confirmation hearing date amid allegations ranging from university admission irregularities involving his daughter to his family’s dubious investment in a private equity firm.
Rep. Song Ki-heon of the ruling party said the party had decided to accept a two-day confirmation hearing as an opportunity for Cho to offer a direct explanation to the public.
Justice Minister nominee Cho Kuk (Yonhap)
The main opposition Liberty Korea Party had demanded a three-day hearing, instead of the usual one-day hearing, while the Democratic Party had planned to unilaterally arrange a “public hearing” if the date was not set by Monday.
Cho, a former presidential secretary for civil affairs, said in a statement that he would provide answers to the allegations against him at the confirmation hearing.
Announcing additional policy plans Monday, Cho said that he would revamp the prosecution -- redistributing investigative rights between the prosecution and police -- as well as create an independent body charged with investigating high-ranking officials.
“There are high public expectations for the distribution of power focused on police and rooting out corruption among high-level officials,” Cho said. “We will strive with the parliament to enforce an institution reflecting the purpose of the system.”
He also suggested that criminal fines should be imposed in proportion to a convicted person’s financial means. This way, both high-income and low-income individuals would be punished with a proportionally similar loss in income.
The release of his policies, however, does not appear to have gained widespread support, with critics dismissing it as a tactic to shift negative public sentiment.
The allegations surrounding Cho center on his daughter, who was listed as a primary author of a pathology paper published in a renowned medical journal after a two-week internship at a medical science institute under Dankook University in 2008. She was a high school student at the time.
Cho’s daughter also received scholarships for six consecutive terms from 2016 to 2018 from Pusan National University Graduate School of Medicine despite having failed twice, which critics say was preferential treatment. The school is suspected of having eliminated a regulation that required a minimum GPA of 2.5 to qualify for outside scholarships, allowing Cho’s daughter to be eligible for scholarships.
Cho apologized over the allegations Sunday.
While PNU Graduate School of Medicine said Monday that there were no procedural problems in granting her scholarships, PNU students plan to hold a candlelight vigil in protest at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
The student council of Seoul National University, where Cho, an SNU alumnus, is a law professor, also plans to hold a rally at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday to urge him step down.
“It is only natural that the young feel helpless over the allegations that his daughter illicitly received scholarships and was illicitly admitted into (Korea university),” the SNU council said in a statement.
By Ock Hyun-ju (firstname.lastname@example.org)