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[Editorial] Heed popular wrath

Dissent to appointment of Cho as justice minister overwhelms consent; prosecution raids universities

Popular sentiment has turned against Justice Minister nominee Cho Kuk.

Proliferating corruption allegations involving Cho have gone beyond what the public can tolerate, with outrage mounting.

Six in 10 people opposed the appointment of Cho as justice minister, according to a poll from the JoongAng Ilbo, a local newspaper. Opposition to the appointment was 60.2 percent, more than double the approval rating (27.2 percent).

A Hankook Research survey commissioned by KBS found that 48 percent of respondents viewed Cho as unsuitable for the position, with only 18 percent regarding him as suitable.

Even considering questions about the validity of an opinion poll, the overwhelming differences show popular sentiment clearly.

Parents blame themselves for being unable to help their children enter universities as Cho did for his daughter.

People in their 20s and 30s held candlelight rallies.

The student council of Seoul National University, Cho’s alma mater, strongly demanded his immediate resignation Monday. The council denounced his shamelessness, and said students’ rage is growing.

Students at Korea University, attended by Cho’s daughter as an undergraduate, also demanded Cho’s resignation and insisted on knowing the truth about the suspicions.

Feeling betrayed by Moon’s pledge to ensure opportunities are equal, processes fair and results righteous, many sneer at Cho and the Moon regime.

Cho apologized Sunday to the effect that he did not realize the seriousness of issues related to his daughter and that he felt sorry for being ignorant of them.

But can suspicions be forgotten just because the suspect says, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know”?

Cho then said he will complete the mission of reforming the prosecution (if appointed as justice minister). He expressed the intent not to step down.

It is questionable if his apology is sincere. Few would believe his daughter obtained a legitimate academic internship as a high school student amid her father’s indifference.

According to her high school records submitted to Korea University for admission, she worked as an intern at an international conference hosted by a research center where Cho worked, as a law professor at Seoul National University. Cho argues his daughter applied for the internship legitimately, but the center said it had not recruited high school students as interns that year.

It was revealed that he met a medical professor who listed his daughter as the lead author of a professional thesis on pathology after she worked for the professor as a high school student intern for two weeks.

Experts on college admissions say Cho and his wife are the kind of parents who take advantage of personal connections to give their children a leg up with prestigious universities.

Cho unveiled his policy plans Tuesday, but did not say a word concerning the mounting suspicions. But it is questionable if the justice minister nominee under a flood of corruption allegations is qualified to mention prosecution reforms.

Rival parties agreed Monday to hold confirmation hearings on Cho for two days. People have seen confirmation hearings under President Moon. Lawmakers found fault with nominees, or tried to cover up their faults, along partisan lines. Nominees equivocated about embarrassing questions. That’s all. Moon appointed nominees even though lawmakers did not confirm them. He has so far named 16 nominees to ministerial posts in that manner.

Negative views of Moon’s job performance outstripped positive ones in a Gallup Korea poll last week. Ever-widening suspicions about Cho, closely linked to Moon, had a significant effect on the poll results.

Suspicions about an aspiring minister must be viewed gravely. All the more so for a justice minister nominee who should lead the people by example in observing social norms, not to mention law and order.

If Moon finalizes the appointment of Cho as justice minister, he could face strong backlash.

Moon and the ruling party, not to mention Cho, must not play deaf to popular cries of indignation.

The prosecution on Tuesday raided Seoul National University, Pusan National University’s Graduate School of Medicine, Korea University and other places to seize evidence related to the suspicions.

The raids must not end up as a charade to make Cho look good or calm popular outrage.

If they respect public sentiment, it is right for Cho to pull out or for Moon to withdraw his nomination.