|President Moon Jae-in, right, presents new Justice Minister Cho Kuk with his certificate of appointment at the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul, Monday. Yonhap|
President Moon Jae-in appointed Cho Kuk as justice minister Monday in spite of ferocious public criticism of Cho and his family over alleged ethical lapses and illegalities.
Moon has approved the nomination of Cho, a law professor and former senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, according to Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson, Ko Min-jung.
The move apparently reflects Moon's resolve for the reform of South Korea's law-enforcement system, especially the role and power of state prosecutors. It also heralds the deepening of political wrangling over the Cho issue.
The appointment came amid a widening probe by state prosecutors into allegations that Cho and his wife forged documents and used personal connections to help their daughter get admissions at prestigious schools. Also at issue is their suspicious investment in a private equity fund.
A month earlier, Moon nominated Cho to lead the Ministry of Justice in a Cabinet reshuffle.
Cho, a close aide to Moon, is an architect of the liberal administration's far-reaching prosecution reform scheme. One highlight is to create an independent unit to investigate corruption by high-ranking government officials and grant police more authority amid a long-running controversy over the "unrivaled power" held by state prosecutors.
It's an open secret that the prosecution is strongly opposed to the Moon administration's drive.
Cho's term has already begun, retroactive to the start of the day, Ko announced.
Moon also appointed five other new minister-level officials picked during the latest Cabinet shake-up. They are science and gender equality ministers as well as heads of the Fair Trade Commission, the Financial Service Commission and the Korea Communications Commission.
Moon is scheduled to give Cho and the other officials letters of appointment at 2 p.m. on Monday, at which time the president will deliver a public message, Cheong Wa Dae said.
The spouses of the newly appointed officials won't attend the Cheong Wa Dae ceremony, it said. (Yonhap)