Wife of South Korea's former justice minister Cho Kuk arrested in corruption scandal

In this photo taken on Sept 6, 2019,  former justice minister Cho Kuk attends a hearing at the national assembly in Seoul, South Korea. Mr Cho stepped down last week after just one month in office.
In this photo taken on Sept 6, 2019, former justice minister Cho Kuk attends a hearing at the national assembly in Seoul, South Korea. Mr Cho stepped down last week after just one month in office.PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (REUTERS) - South Korean authorities on Thursday (Oct 24) arrested the wife of a former justice minister who was at the centre of a graft scandal and was a close political confidant of President Moon Jae-in after a court upheld prosecutors' request for a warrant.

The arrest of Chung Kyung-shim, a college professor and the wife of former justice minister Cho Kuk, comes as part of an investigation by prosecutors into Mr Cho's family's financial investments and his children's college admissions.

Mr Cho stepped down last week after just one month in office. His appointment triggered a crisis for Mr Moon that brought protesters from both sides of the political spectrum to the streets in numbers not seen in two years.

The Seoul Central District Court issued the warrant soon after midnight, an official at the court said by telephone. The charges against her include forging documents and irregular financial investments, according to Korean media reports.

Chung's lawyers said after a warrant hearing on Wednesday that the charges against her were groundless and that she should be allowed to stand trial without being detained.

The presidential Blue House did not have any comment about her arrest.

The main opposition conservative Liberty Korea Party welcomed her arrest and called for an investigation of Mr Cho himself.

Mr Cho is a legal scholar known for progressive thinking and was picked by Mr Moon to lead the reform of the prosecutors' office, which critics of the legal system say has long been susceptible to political pressure.

He had also served as Mr Moon's chief legal adviser.

 
 
 
 

Supporters of Mr Moon say the investigation into Mr Cho's family is politically motivated and unjust.

Mr Cho has not denied his daughter received academic perks, and apologised publicly for the disappointment that he caused, but denied his family committed any wrongdoing.

Public support for Mr Moon slid during the two months since Mr Cho was nominated for justice minister, pushing his approval ratings to a record low.

Pollster Realmeter said on Thursday that 45.4 per cent of 1,502 people polled this week approved of Mr Moon's performance, rebounding from the 41.4 per cent two weeks ago that marked the lowest since he took office in 2017.