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Convicted ex-Justice Minister Cho Kuk to launch new political party
2024-02-18
Former Justice Minister Cho Kuk announced Tuesday he will launch a new political party to fight against "prosecutorial dictatorship" ahead of the April 10 general elections.
 
"I will create a political party that is one step ahead and presents alternatives to overcome the national crisis without being obsessed with popularity," Cho said in a press conference at Democracy Park while visiting his hometown of Busan.  
 
Cho previously announced his intention to participate in politics after the Seoul High Court upheld a two-year prison sentence over academic fraud involving his children and corruption charges last Thursday.  

"The April 10 elections should not only be an opportunity to hand down judgment on the reckless and incompetent Yoon Suk Yeol administration but also to rebuild Korea, which is facing multiple crises," Cho said on Tuesday, mentioning challenges in the areas of diplomacy, national security and the economy.
 
"I will create a political party that mediates conflicts and solves problems rather than politics that exploits conflict," Cho said. "We will establish ourselves as a strong, small political party that will bring about change."
 
He also hinted at the possibility of running in the general elections, saying members of the new party will "set the principles and procedures." 
 
However, Cho's new party could challenge the liberal Democratic Party (DP), which is already facing a factional divide. Last month, former Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon, a former party chairman, defected from the DP to form his own splinter party, which recently joined hands with another splinter party led by former People Power Party (PPP) chair Lee Jun-Seok.  
 
The DP has been divided between members supporting current chief Lee Jae-Myung and those who are not, like Lee Nak-yon, and lawmakers who have recently defected from the party in search of an alternative to mainstream political parties.  
 
Cho in turn ruled out the possibility of joining the so-called "big tent" party made up of conservatives and liberals who broke away from the major parties ahead of the elections.
 
However, he left open the possibility that his new party could still form a coalition with the DP, admitting, "I don't know what will happen in the end."
 
Some DP members have expressed concern that Cho's move could weaken moderate voters' support for the majority party. 
 
On Monday, the last day of the four-day Lunar New Year holiday, Cho visited Bongha Village in South Gyeongsang and the grave of former President Roh Moo-hyun.  
 
He later paid a courtesy call to former President Moon Jae-in at Pyeongsan Village in Yangsan, South Gyeongsang.  
 
During this visit, Cho told Moon, "If there is no other way, I will devote myself to judging the [Yoon] government and victory in the general elections, even if it is through the creation of a new party."
 
Cho, a former law professor at Seoul National University, served as senior presidential secretary for civil affairs during the Moon administration from 2017 to 2019. He is considered a key architect of the Moon government's prosecution reform, aimed at reducing prosecutors' investigative power and empowering police. Such reform measures were a catalyst for Yoon to resign as Moon's prosecutor general in 2021 and enter politics.  
 
Cho served briefly as Moon's justice minister in September 2019 before stepping down about a month later amid controversy over allegations that he and his wife, Chung Kyung-sim, abused their influence in academia to give their son and daughter an unfair advantage in undergraduate and graduate medical school admissions.
 
Cho was indicted in December 2019 on charges including bribery and abuse of power.
 
Chung, a former professor at Dongyang University, was also indicted in 2019 for academic fraud charges.  
 
On Tuesday, PPP members criticized Cho for using the general elections to serve his personal political agenda and try to gain parliamentary immunity.  
 
"The general elections are not a means for criminals to gain immunity," Koo Ja-ryong, a member of the PPP's emergency steering committee, said at a meeting in Yeouido Tuesday. "An assemblyman's badge should not be used as a tool to remove one's handcuffs."
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