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Cho Kuk’s daughter questioned, wife faces trial in college admission scandal

Justice Minister’s relative arrested, wife indicted, daughter subpoenaed in widening probe

Sept. 17, 2019 - 15:36 By Kim Arin

Prosecutors questioned Justice Minister Cho Kuk’s daughter Monday as part of an investigation into a college admissions scandal involving her mother, Chung Kyung-shim.

The first hearing for Chung, indicted on charges of forging a document that is believed to have influenced her daughter’s admission to a medical school, will be held Oct. 18, the Seoul Central District Court said.

Cho Min, 28, was subpoenaed by the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office and questioned on suspicions that she was got admission in a college and a medical school based on fabricated qualifications.

In 2008, then-high school student she was listed as the lead author in a paper published in a medical journal after a two-week internship at Dankook University School of Medicine.

The paper was later included in her application for Korea University, where she enrolled in 2010. A life science professor at the university who sat on the admissions committee at the time, identified by his surname Chi, was questioned Monday concerning the application process.

Justice Minister Cho Kuk photographed Tuesday at the National Assembly. (Yonhap)

“Even I find it strange,” Cho said of his daughter being listed as the main author in the medical study, at a press conference held Sept. 2 where he denied irregularities. “Authorship standards may have been loose or ambiguous at the time,” he said. “I think she was credited for translating the research into English.”

The Korean Society of Pathologists retracted the paper on Sept. 5, for falsely stating that it had received ethical approval from an institutional review board when it fact it had failed to do so. The society also took issue with the listing of authors who had not made the required contributions to the study, including Cho Min.

Next in line for subpoena is likely the justice minister’s wife.

Chung, a professor at Dongyang University, faces allegations that she fabricated a certificate using the seal of the university president in 2012. The certificate was submitted as part of Min’s medical school application.

Prosecutors indicted Chung on Sept. 6, the day of her husband’s National Assembly confirmation hearing, over charges of document forgery.

Chung, who was hospitalized last week, has appointed a defense team of 14 seasoned lawyers.

In a separate investigation into alleged financial irregularities involving the Cho family, Cho Beom-dong, 36, became the first in the family to be arrested Monday afternoon on charges of embezzlement and other offenses. Chung was charged without being arrested.

The minister’s cousin once removed is believed to be the de facto head of Co-Link Private Equity, the operator of a fund in which Chung, the couple’s two children, her brother and his two children invested a combined 1.4 billion won.

Two companies funded by Co-Link -- Wealth C&T and WFM -- saw surge in profits by winning government projects after the Cho family invested in them.

In the latest development in what has come to be known as “Cho Kuk private equity” affair, WFM’s ex-president, surnamed Wu, was called in Tuesday for questioning. Wu left the country in end-August together with Cho’s relative, and presidents of Co-Link and Wealth C&T, a move which prosecutors interpreted as attempted flight.

By Kim Arin (