Moon Jae-in's justice minister nominee sorry for privileges and dubious investment, refuses to quit

President Moon Jae-in's justice minister nominee Cho Kuk (pictured) said that he had disappointed the public despite the expectations placed on him. PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - South Korean President Moon Jae-in's justice minister nominee Cho Kuk apologised for failing to properly oversee his daughter's college applications and family's investments.

"I apologise to the public. I have disappointed you despite the expectations placed on me, which were more than I deserved," Mr Cho said in a press conference on Monday (Sept 2) at the National Assembly.

"I am a wreck, but I will continue as long as I can. … I believe I have to complete what I have worked for my entire life. If I had thought to earn more money or desired a position, I would not be here."

Mr Cho called an unprecedented press conference after the National Assembly's Legislation and Judiciary Committee failed to agree on a confirmation hearing for Mr Cho earlier in the day.

"I had dreamt of progressivism and reform since my younger days and I made my best efforts for it. I have tried to be a reformist, but I have not been thorough with issues related to my child and issues surrounding me. I think I was complacent," Mr Cho said.

"I was not able to apply my beliefs in all aspects of my life. I have to take the heat about inconsistency."

A key criticism Mr Cho faces is that his actions are inconsistent with his reputation and career as figure at the forefront of progressive policies and reform.

The alleged privileges his daughter received in the college admissions process and his decision to sign up to invest some 7.5 billion won (S$8.6 million) in a private equity fund have come under attack.

Amid escalating tensions, public's support for Mr Cho rose 3.1 percentage points to 42.3 per cent in the latest survey by local pollster Realmeter.

But more than half of the 504 adults surveyed on Aug 30 disagreed with Mr Cho's appointment, totalling 54.3 per cent.

Mr Cho said he was unsure why his daughter had received scholarships despite her poor academic record, and apologised to young people from financially struggling backgrounds.

Mr Cho added he did not know how a private equity fund functioned until the controversy arose over his family's 7.5 billion won investment agreement in a private equity fund, which exceeded the family's total wealth, which amounts to some 5.5 billion won.

The Liberty Korea Party lambasted the press conference, referring to it as a "trick" to lay the groundwork for President Moon to finalise Mr Cho's nomination without a confirmation hearing.

The ruling and main opposition parties had originally decided to hold Mr Cho's confirmation hearing on Monday and Tuesday (Sept 3), but had argued over who could be summoned as witnesses.

Earlier in the day, Liberty Korea Party withdrew its demand to summon Mr Cho's entire family to the confirmation hearing given the possibility that Mr Moon could use his authority to appoint Mr Cho as the justice minister without one.

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