Students hold protests against nomination for scandal-tainted justice minister

Alexi Rivers, Aug. 29, 2019, 9:15 a.m.


Student protests against the nomination for justice minister of the scandal-tainted former presidential secretary Cho Kuk are spreading to universities outside Seoul.

Starting at Seoul National University and Korea University, protests are now spreading to Pusan National University, Kyungpook National University and Kongju National University.

Cho's daughter is on a generous scholarship at PNU's medical school despite flunking twice, while Kongju and Kyungpook allowed her to be listed among the authors of a research paper when she was a teenage intern, which allowed her to get admission to Korea University.

The student union at PNU is holding a two-day vote to determine whether to hold a candlelight demonstration. SNU held a second candlelight protest on Wednesday calling on Cho to give up his ministerial ambitions before his parliamentary confirmation hearing as the nepotism and corruption scandal snowballs. Some 800 SNU alumni also came to the school holding placards to protest against Cho's nomination.

Cho's daughter won a scholarship to SNU although she took just one graduate course and then she left after being accepted at PNU's medical school.

SNU student union leader Doh Jung-geun said Cho, "who has been the most outspoken proponent of equality and justice, is passing off his own misconduct as being 'within legal bounds.'" Protesters presented their university IDs or graduation certificates to prove that they voluntarily participated in the rally and were not partisan agitators.

Students at Kongju National University issued a statement demanding a "thorough investigation" of how Cho's daughter managed to land a two-week internship at the university and got her name listed among the authors of a serious scientific paper on which research had finished the previous year.

She was a high-school senior at the time, and her father has claimed she "helped significantly" with research and translation of the paper into English.

Korea University, where she spent her undergraduate years, will hold another candlelight protest on Friday.

Student union leaders at Daegu University, Yeungnam University and Keimyung University in southeastern Korea, a conservative stronghold, held meetings Wednesday afternoon to discuss what steps they should take in response to the scandal. Students at Kyungpook National University in a statement on Monday also urged a thorough investigation.

In the last 20 days since Cho was nominated for justice minister, allegations of impropriety have snowballed. Prosecutors earlier this week raided a number of locations linked to another scandal involving his family. They included a private equity firm in which Cho and his family are heavily invested. But three senior partners at the fund have left Korea, raising suspicions that they are evading an investigation.

Prosecutors are also investigating the financial records of Busan Medical Center head Roh Hwan-jung, who awarded the W12 million PNU scholarship to Cho's daughter and slapped travel bans on Roh and other members of Cho's family (US$1=W1,215).

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