Reuters SEOUL (Reuters) — South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s nominee for justice minister may soon take office under the cloud of a prosecution inquiry and public outcry over a scandal that has reignited debate over class privilege.
At issue are scholarships and other perks granted to the daughter of the nominee, Cho Kuk, allegedly out of line with her academic performance.
The scandal has struck a chord in South Korea, where young people, who compete furiously through school and university, are increasingly finding themselves scrambling for a dwindling number of positions in a slack job market, in a system they see as plagued by systemic unfairness and bias in favor of the elite.
The scandal surrounding Cho, who faced a parliamentary confirmation hearing Friday, has caused a media sensation and sparked protests since Moon nominated him in early August.
At the hearing on Friday, Cho did not deny his daughter’s academic perks and expressed his “deepest apologies to the younger generation” for the disappointment that he caused them.
But he said his responsibility was to complete the reform of the justice ministry and prosecution, and would consider a way to make amends to young people who don’t have the same opportunities.
His 28-year-old daughter has not been identified in South Korean media and she has made no public comment on the controversy.
Students at South Korea’s top universities, including Seoul National University (SNU) where Cho is a professor of law, have held candlelight demonstrations calling for him to give up the nomination, reminiscent of the protests that swept Moon into power in 2017.
“She had opportunities that a typical high school, college student would not even be able to see, just because she is the child of the privileged class,” Do Jung-geun, SNU student council president, said of Cho’s daughter.
Some of the allegations against Cho’s daughter that have drawn the most ire include her being named as first author of a medical paper in the Korea Journal of Pathology in 2009, when she was still in high school and had just completed a two-week internship at Dankook University’s institute of medical science.
She also failed her exams at Pusan National University’s medical school twice, according to school records, and not only kept her place but also got scholarships worth a total of 12 million won ($9,900) over six semesters between 2016 and 2018.
The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office has opened an investigation into unspecified allegations against Cho’s family with a series of raids into dozens of related offices late last month, including the universities involved in the allegations.Speech