Former justice minister and confidant of President Moon Jae-In Cho Kuk and his wife were indicted by South Korean prosecutors on December 31 on a dozen charges including bribery. The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office also charged them of using their position to gain admissions for his children. Cho Kuk resigned from his position two months ago over a scandal involving family investment and university admissions for his children. Critics to the media earlier raised doubts over the appointment of the minister as he was chosen by Moon Jae-In and could be under political pressure.
Prosecutors have claimed that Cho while serving as Moon’s senior secretary for civil affairs in 2017, abused his power by blocking a government inspection into corruption allegations surrounding former Financial Services Commission Director-General Yoo Jae-soo, another official close to Moon’s ruling party.
Cho Kuk will not be taken into custody and will remain free as he stands trial. Earlier in October, his wife Chung Kyung-shim, who is a university professor, was arrested on the same charges. The South Korean news agency quoted him as saying the prosecutors had handed down “a political indictment based on their imagination and fiction”.
In an earlier statement, Cho told reporters, "I have been enduring an endless investigation by the prosecution targeting my family. It has been a harsh time”.
Moon-Jae-In came to power in 2017 promising to clean up corruption after weeks of large street protests led to the impeachment of predecessor Park Geun-Hye. There were street protests for and against the president hitting his public support ratings after Cho's appointment. Just then, Cho stepped down in October after one month in office, saying the graft scandal around his family had become a political burden for Moon’s government.