S. Korean president appoints justice minister despite opposition

SEOUL, Sept. 9 (UPI) — South Korean President Moon Jae-in appointed Cho Kuk as justice minister Monday, emphasizing the need to continue the government’s reform drive.

He appealed for “public understanding and support” for his decision to appoint Cho despite controversies over alleged ethical lapses and wrongdoings by the new justice minister’s family.

Cho’s wife has been indicted on charges of forging a university president’s citation for her daughter.

Moon said he’s aware of the fierce debate over whether Cho is suitable for the post.

“But I thought what’s more important is to maintain the principle and consistency,” Moon said in a televised statement issued after giving Cho a letter of appointment at Cheong Wa Dae.

It would be a “bad precedent” to not appoint Cho solely on the basis of suspicions of illicit acts that have not been confirmed, Moon said.

He pointed out that reforming “influential institutions” was one of his “most important” campaign pledges. He was apparently referring to the prosecution, which he views as having excessive power and authority.

Moon also offered a public apology for appointing Cho and five other minister-level officials without confirmation hearing reports from the National Assembly.

He called it a “systemic problem,” indirectly criticizing opposition lawmakers who have refused to adopt related documents.

The appointment came amid a widening probe by state prosecutors into allegations that Cho and his wife forged documents and used personal connections to help their daughter gain admission to prestigious schools. Also at issue is a suspicious investment in a private equity fund.

Cho, a close aide to Moon, is an architect of the liberal administration’s far-reaching prosecution reform scheme. One highlight is to create an independent unit to investigate corruption by high-ranking government officials and grant police more authority.

It’s an open secret that the prosecution is strongly opposed to the Moon administration’s policy.

The five other newly appointed minister-level officials picked during the Aug. 9 Cabinet shake-up are the science and gender equality ministers, as well as the heads of the Fair Trade Commission, the Financial Services Commission and the Korea Communications Commission.

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