Minister’s home ransacked by his own prosecutors . . .
The home of South Korea’s newly appointed justice minister, Cho Kuk, was raided today by prosecutors – who technically work for him – seeking evidence for an ongoing investigation of Cho’s family. Prosecutors ransacked his home for 11 hours and left with two large boxes. Cho was appointed justice minister amid various allegations, the most serious of which is that he helped his children gain unfair advantages in their university admissions. Cho has denied the allegations, saying he will “seriously consider taking legal action.”
Powerful prosecutors resisting reform . . .
President Moon Jae-in came to power vowing to eliminate corruption. Central to this agenda has been reforming the Prosecutor’s Office, which wields significant power. Specifically, the office has the authority to both investigate and prosecute and is therefore seen as a key player in enabling abuse of power by South Korean elites. The reform, which would reduce the authority of prosecutors, has been a perennial policy goal for progressives. Cho, a widely respected progressive without previous ties to the Prosecutor’s Office, was seen as the ideal candidate to make that happen. In this context, the investigation of Cho – essentially, a case of prosecutors investigating their own boss – has been framed as a politically-motivated operation by the Prosecutor’s Office, which wants to resist reform.
Trouble ahead for Moon administration . . .
The investigation of Cho poses yet another challenge for Moon’s administration, which has already been beset by an under performing economy, a lack of progress in relations with North Korea, and a trade spat with Tokyo. Allegations that Cho helped his children gain special privileges in their university admissions have particularly undermined support from millennials, who face a 10.5 per cent youth unemployment rate, emboldening the opposition party’s call for his resignation. On Monday, Moon’s approval rating was at 45 per cent, down from 61 per cent in September 2018 and 70 per cent in September 2017.