South Korean court sentences former justice minister to 2 years for abusing his power

Streaming HUBFebruary 4, 2023

A South Korean court on Friday sentenced Cho Kuk, a former justice minister, to two years in prison after he was found guilty of forging certificates to help his children get into prestigious schools, a scam that Which shook the previous government of the country and ignited a huge spark. Oppose.

Cho was also found guilty of abusing his power while serving as a senior aide to former President Moon Jae-in, having blocked an investigation into a former Financial Services Commission official believed to be close to Moon. Who was eventually arrested for taking bribes from businessmen.

But the Seoul Central District Court decided not to immediately arrest Cho, saying he was not a flight risk and that his wife was already serving a prison sentence on charges related to their children. Cho told reporters after the verdict that he plans to appeal, and that if he does within seven days, he will stay out of prison at least until the appeals ruling.

The ruling culminated in the public demise of the former Seoul National University law professor and liberal icon whose political rise during the Moon government had seen him considered a future presidential contender.

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“I will appeal against the charges of which I was found guilty and present a more serious argument (in court),” Cho told reporters after the verdict was announced. He left without asking any questions.

Initially serving as Moon’s senior secretary for civil affairs, Cho was appointed as justice minister in 2019, but was forced to resign months later after the allegations surfaced. He colluded with his wife to forge documents and certificates to help their daughter get into medical school. The couple later faced similar allegations regarding their son’s education.

Cho apologized for the alimony his daughter received after stepping down as justice minister, but has strongly denied legal wrongdoing.

The allegations have struck a nerve in a country grappling with a growing rich-poor gap and where teenagers toil in hyper-competitive school environments as graduating from elite universities is seen as crucial to career prospects.

Former Justice Minister Cho Kuk arrives at the Seoul Central District Court on February 3, 2023 in Seoul, South Korea. They get admission in prestigious schools.

Former Justice Minister Cho Kuk arrives at the Seoul Central District Court on February 3, 2023 in Seoul, South Korea. They get admission in prestigious schools.
(AP Photo/Lee ​​Jin-man)

Cho’s legal saga also tarnished the reformist image of Moon, who vowed to restore faith in fairness and justice after winning a presidential by-election in 2017 to replace his conservative predecessor, Park Geun-hee, who was impeached. Run and jailed for corruption.

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Cho’s wife, Chung Kyung-shim, already serving a four-year prison sentence, a Seoul court on Friday added another year to her sentence, finding her guilty of additional charges related to their son as well as Tried to hide his suspect. private equity investment after her husband joined Moon’s government.

The court said it was clear that Cho had an active role in colluding with his wife to create fake credentials for their daughter to help her get into the medical school of Seoul National University, the country’s most prestigious school.

Cho’s daughter didn’t make it there, but later enrolled in Pusan ​​National University’s medical school in 2015. The PNU canceled her nomination last year, saying it was based on falsified records.

The court found Cho guilty of violating an anti-corruption law governing public servants by receiving $4,800 as a scholarship for his daughter from Roh Hwan-jung, former head of PNU’s medical school, from 2017 and 2018.

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Although the court said it could not impose more serious bribery charges against Cho over the payments, it was unclear whether Roh sought favors specifically related to Cho’s job as Moon’s senior civil affairs secretary. Was it or not The court sentenced Roh to six months in prison, which was suspended for one year.

The court found Cho and another former Moon aide, Baek Won-woo, guilty of abusing authority by blocking a government inspection into former Financial Services Commission official Yoo Jae-soo, months before Yoo became vice mayor in Busan. .

Yu, seen as a close associate of Moon, was later arrested on charges of accepting bribes from businessmen in exchange for favors during his time at the financial regulator. Beck was sentenced on Friday to 10 months in prison.

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