Justice Minister Cho Kuk leaves his ministry in Gwacheon on Monday. Photo by Yonhap
SEOUL, Oct. 14 (UPI) -- The ruling Democratic Party voiced regret on Monday over Justice Minister Cho Kuk's sudden announcement that he will step down and pledged efforts to complete the reform of the prosecution, a task that the minister has prioritized.
Opposition parties, meanwhile, called Cho's decision belated but inevitable given the prosecution's widening probe into allegations of corruption surrounding his family.
Earlier in the day, Cho made the surprise announcement that he has decided to resign, about one month after he was appointed as the minister amid political turmoil over the probe into his family.
The announcement came a few hours after the minister said the government will put proposals to reform the prosecution on the agenda at an upcoming Cabinet meeting.
The governing DP expressed regret over Cho's decision and stressed the need to complete the reform initiative.
"Amid resistance from the privileged and difficulties, Cho has so far led efforts to institutionalize a drive to reform the prosecution, a task that no administration has managed to conduct," said Rep. Hong Ihk-pyo, DP spokesman. "The latest development has revealed the need and urgency to carry out the reform."
The main opposition Liberty Korea Party said Cho's offer was meant to be, given the deepening public divide over his appointment.
"President Moon Jae-in should apologize for letting the controversy split public opinion and for disregarding people," LKP floor leader Na Kyung-won said.
The minor opposition Bareunmirae Party emphasized the need to push for the prosecution reform as planned and for a thorough investigation into the allegations.
"We need to think about how to uphold fairness and justice at the legislative and institutional levels to prevent the privileged from enjoying vested interests and violating rules," party chief Sohn Hak-kyu said.
The minor liberal Party for Democracy and Peace and the progressive Justice Party said Cho's decision could serve as a starting point for full-fledged reform.
"Now is the time to launch wide-ranging reform. We need to seamlessly handle bills for election and judiciary reforms that have been placed on the fast track," the PDP said.
Cho, a key architect for Moon's drive to overhaul the prosecution, was appointed as the justice minister on Sept. 9, despite the elite investigative agency's probe.
The controversy surrounding Cho has effectively divided Koreans into two groups -- those who support him and those who don't -- and prompted them to hold respective rallies in public places to voice their opinions.