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South Korea appointee facing accusations vows retaliation against opponents

By Elizabeth Shim
South Korea appointee facing accusations vows retaliation against opponents
Cho Kuk, previously senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, is facing allegations of corruption. Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE

Aug. 20 (UPI) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in's pick to be justice minister is at the center of corruption allegations, charges he has denied as he expects to be confirmed in a new position.

Cho Kuk, who has served as Moon's senior secretary for civil affairs, was appointed on Aug. 9, a decision that has been followed by accusations from political opponents and reports from some local press services Cho used his position of power to help his daughter gain admission to medical school, Money Today reported Tuesday.

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Cho said Tuesday he will take legal action against opponents who are spreading disinformation online.

Cho's 28-year-old daughter was reportedly awarded a total of nearly $10,000 in scholarship funds from Pusan National University's medical school, from 2016 to 2018, although she received substandard grades, the Korea Herald reported.

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South Korea's opposition conservatives are asking how Cho's daughter was awarded tuition money, according to multiple reports.

Other evidence regarding the woman's qualifications is raising red flags. A scientific paper titled, "eNOS Gene Polymorphisms in Perinatal Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy" published in the journal of the Korea Society of Pathologists, a medical association, in March 2009, included Cho's name as the "first author," along with senior academics, according to JoongAng Daily.

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Cho would have been 17 years old at the time. The paper was included in her application to Korea University, one of South Korea's top schools.

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Cho has denied using his position -- past and present -- to benefit his daughter so she may gain admission to schools in South Korea's hypercompetitive academic environment.

The appointee said Tuesday he is taking steps to sue people who have claimed online his daughter "drives a Porsche" and "graduated with a major in home economics," and "graduated last in her class" at university.

Cho may not be excluding South Korean parliamentarians from the main opposition Liberty Korea Party from potential lawsuits.

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The party has pledged to form a committee to investigate the case of Cho's daughter, according to the JoongAng.

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