30 September 2019
The Yonhap News Agency reported that, South Korean prosecutors raided the home of Justice Minister Cho Kuk (in the picture) for investigating a range of issues involving their children’s university applications and an investment in a private equity fund. The raids came two weeks after Cho was appointed as justice minister with the task of reforming the prosecution. Previously he was a professor of law at Seoul National University. Prior to that he was a law lecturer at Dongguk University.
If Cho continues to hold his position as head of Justice Department there is serious conflict of interest and the investigating prosecutors who are under him cannot execute their probe unimpeded.
Cho’s daughter gained 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. The paper was retracted due to the questionable way that authorship was granted to the minister’s daughter. Seoul National University Centre said in a written response to the National Assembly that no high school student had interned between 2007 and 2016. Cho Kuk was still on the faculty as a law professor there at the time the certificates were issued.
It is also alleged that his family made a hefty profit on a questionable investment in a private equity fund. Cho, his wife, two children and in-laws invested some $1.17 million in a fund called Blue Core Value-Up 1, which was operated by Co-Link Private Equity, owned by the minister’s cousin once removed Cho Beom-dong. Co-Link funded Wealth C&T, saw a surge in sales, having won contracts from provincial governments and state institutions.
Just hours before Cho Kuk was formally named the minister of justice, prosecutors filed a pre-trial detention warrant for two businessmen linked to suspicious investments made Cho’s family. They are Lee Sang-hoon, 40, CEO of Co-Link Private Equity (PE), and a 54-year-old surnamed Choi, CEO of Wellscnt. In mid-2017, Blue Core Value-Up 1 invested 1.38 billion won in a tiny company called Wellscnt, which produces streetlamp control systems, becoming the largest shareholder.
Soon after, Wellscnt’s performance started to take off as it landed deals with numerous local government offices and public companies. Prosecutors are trying to figure out whether Cho had a hand in the sudden upward growth of Wellscnt so that he could reap a windfall profit from his investment.
Cho’s wife Chung Kyung-shim, a university professor, was indicted earlier this month on allegations that she interfered with the probe by forging documents, YTN reported.
Korea Herald reported.