December 24, 2020 10:15
The wife of fly-by-night justice minister Cho Kuk was sentenced to four years in jail on Wednesday for academic fraud and financial misconduct.
The ruling by the Seoul Central District Court marked the first sentence in the family's trials on charges of shady financial dealings, influence peddling and document forgery. It also slapped her with a W500 million fine and forfeiture of W139 million (US$1=W1,107).
The court found Chung Kyung-shim (58), a professor at Dongyang University, guilty of 11 out of 15 charges related to her daughter's improper college admission and her dubious investment in a private equity fund.
It found her guilty of forging documents and falsely padding the resume of her daughter, Cho Min, to help her gain admission to medical school and obstructing the admissions process at Seoul National University and Pusan National University's medical school.
It ruled that a document purporting to show that Cho Min interned at a human rights center at SNU, where her father taught, and a letter of commendation from the dean of Dongyang University were forged by her parents.
Chung was also found guilty of colluding with her husband to forge documents proving her daughter attended a conference at SNU and interned in a hotel in the southern port city of Busan to pad her resume. But she was cleared of the charge of destroying evidence because the court reasoned that spiriting away a computer was aimed at aiding her defense.
It found her guilty of making profits of W230 million from insider trading and making the investment under an alias to avoid violating the code of ethics for high-ranking officials. Her husband was a presidential secretary at the time.
Cho Kuk's complicity was cited three times in the sentence, including document forgery. That is expected to have a considerable impact on the ex-minister's own trial, which is still underway.
Cho posted a message on social media on Wednesday saying the ruling was a "huge shock," but vowed to appeal. He has been indicted for abuse of authority by blocking an audit of former Busan vice mayor Yoo Jae-soo and illegal acts involving her daughter's admission into university. The crime of document forgery alone carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
"The defendant not once acknowledged her guilt and caused mental pain to those who spoke the truth," the judge said, adding she "betrayed society's trust in fair competition."
Cho was the first of two justice ministers tasked with prosecution reform before President Moon Jae-in threw them under a bus. His tenure lasted only a month.
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