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[Newsmaker] Justice minister apologizes over alleged power abuse scandal involving her son


Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae apologized Sunday over allegations she used her influence to seek special favors for her son during his mandatory military service, breaking her recent silence on the issue.

Choo has come under fire over suspicions that she abused her power to seek preferential treatment for her son, surnamed Seo, when he was in the military in 2017, such as by extending medical leave without following due procedures. Choo was chairwoman of the ruling Democratic Party at the time.

"I have caused trouble to the people with issues involving my son's military duty at a time when the whole nation is having a difficult time due to the COVID-19 crisis. I want to first express my apologies," she said in a Facebook post.

But the minister said she has kept her principles strict, apparently denying the allegations raised against her, and stressed there were no reasons to violate the guidelines.

"Black is black, and white is white. I have never called something black white," she said. "Prosecutors are investigating whether illegal acts were conducted in the process as some suspect, and I'm only waiting (for the results) in silence. The truth should be clearly revealed through the prosecution's investigation."

Choo said she has saved her breath on the issue over concerns her words might have an influence on the ongoing probe, adding that her son is fully cooperating with the investigation.

The allegations of preferential treatment have become the latest political football, with the main opposition People Power Party calling on President Moon Jae-in to take a stand.

Other key allegations surrounding Seo are his family's reported attempt to get him assigned to a base in Seoul, rather than in Uijeongbu, north of the capital, and their reported push to have him selected as an interpreter for the February 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games.

Prosecutors launched an investigation into the alleged preferential treatment in January, but no progress has been announced.

Both the main opposition party and Seo's lawyers have called for a swift investigation to get to the bottom of the allegations.

"I believe that unwaveringly fulfilling my responsibility to reform the prosecution is what the public wants and my destined duty," the minister said. "I will no matter what complete the prosecution reform." (Yonhap)