September 09, 2019

Moon Picks Ally Accused of Graft as South Korea Justice Minister
(Bloomberg) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in asked for public understanding after he appointed as justice minister a close confidant who faced a grilling in the media and in parliament over corruption allegations.Cho Kuk, who served as the administration’s first presidential senior secretary for civil affairs, was officially named Monday as the nation’s 66th justice minister after holding a news conference last week that lasted about 10 hours. Cho has denied the allegations against him.His nomination galvanized Moon’s progressive supporters who see Cho as furthering the president’s agenda on transforming the prosecutors’ office. Opponents of the president see Cho as unfit for the job and the appointment as a needless diversion at a time when the economy is flagging and Moon is in a bruising trade battle with Japan.“I thought it would be a bad precedent if I weren’t to appoint him when illegal actions were not confirmed,” Moon said in remarks televised nationwide Monday. “I will leave efforts for reform toward organizations of authority in Minister Cho Kuk’s hands. I ask people for understanding and support.”Collision CourseThe appointment puts Cho on a collision course with prosecutors who have been looking into the corruption and nepotism allegations. Moon didn’t need parliamentary approval to make the appointment.Among the allegations are that Cho’s daughter was able to win admission to a prestigious university after she was credited as a main author of a published scientific paper while a high school student on a brief internship. Another allegation is that his family made a hefty profit on a questionable investment in a private equity fund.Cho denied the allegations at the marathon news conference and during questioning in parliament Friday. “Personally I would like to return as a civilian and I’d like to see my family, but I have one more calling as a public official, so I came out to this seat today despite the grievances,” he told lawmakers.In a poll by Real Meter released Friday, 56.2% of South Koreans respondents opposed appointing Cho, while 40.1% were in favor.Moon is about midway through his five-year term and the economic outlook has turned gloomy for South Korea’s export-dependent economy, which this year is forecast to expand at the weakest pace in a decade.Making matters worse for Moon is an intensifying trade battle with Japan. Tokyo has placed export controls on three specialist materials that are crucial for the production of semiconductors and displays by South Korean powerhouses such as Samsung Electronics.(Recasts first paragraph and adds Moon quotes in fourth paragraph.)To contact the reporter on this story: Jihye Lee in Seoul at jlee2352@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Brendan Scott at bscott66@bloomberg.net, Jon Herskovitz, Peter PaeFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
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