Students of Korea’s top 3 universities to hold candlelight vigils against justice minister

SEOUL-- Students at South Korea's three most prestigious universities are to hold candlelight vigils on their campuses in Seoul on Thursday night to protest President Moon Jae-in's appointment of his embattled aide Cho Kuk as justice minister.

It will be the first time that students of Seoul National University (SNU), Korea University and Yonsei University have simultaneously held an anti-Cho candlelight rally after the corruption allegations involving the Cho family surfaced last month.

Students of SNU, Cho's alma mater and where he formerly taught, and Korea University, from which Cho's only daughter graduated, have already each held three rounds of candlelight vigils to demand his resignation. Students of Yonsei University, which is not directly related to the alleged irregularities by the Cho family, will hold their first rally against the justice minister.

Resentment has been growing among college students after Moon appointed Cho, former senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, as justice minister Sept. 9 despite the prosecution's probe into corruption allegations involving members of his family. The prosecution is looking into a suspicious investment by family members in a private equity fund, while Cho's wife was indicted for allegations that she fabricated a school certificate for her daughter. Cho denied his role in the allegations during a parliamentary confirmation hearing held on Sept. 6.

According to a poll of 504 adults nationwide conducted by Realmeter Wednesday, 55.5 percent said Moon's appointment of Cho as a Cabinet minister was the wrong decision, while 35.3 percent expressed support for the appointment.

SNU students' candlelight vigil is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Gwanak campus in southern Seoul, while candlelight rallies by Korea and Yonsei University students will start at 7 p.m.

All the rallies will be organized by individual students, instead of the student councils.

"President Moon, as well as Minister Cho, whose misconduct and hypocrisy have been laid bare, should be held accountable. Criticism of Moon and Cho has nothing to do with political orientation. It's a protest against injustice," an SNU student said.

At Korea University, student protesters have called for Cho's daughter's admission to the university to be canceled and for Cho to resign.

Cho's daughter was listed as the primary writer of a pathology paper as a high school student in 2008 after she took part in a two-week internship program at a medical science institute at Dankook University. She cited the experience when she applied to Korea University in 2010.

"It is said that a fabricated experience related to a university medical paper greatly contributed to Cho's daughter's admission to Korea University. The admission should be immediately canceled, as the pathology paper allegedly written by her has been officially nullified," a Korea University student said.

Yonsei students said they will step up calls for Cho's resignation, adding that some professors are scheduled to take part in Thursday's candlelight vigil.

In a related development, about 3,400 incumbent and former university professors issued a joint statement calling for Moon's dismissal of Cho as justice minister.

The statement, signed by 3,396 current and former professors at 290 universities and colleges nationwide and released in a news conference in front of Cheong Wa Dae, said Cho's appointment as justice minister has destroyed social justice and ethics.

"President Moon has struck down social justice and ethics by appointing Cho as justice minister, even though his scandal-ridden wife was indicted on suspicion of doctoring a document to help their daughter gain admission to a graduate school," the statement read. It called on the president to pick a new minister who can be approved by the public.

Min Hyun-sik, a Korean language education professor at SNU, said he attended the news conference to help safeguard South Korea's constitutional identity and campaign against lying by officials, noting that more than 200 SNU professors had signed the statement.

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) plans to hold its third candlelight vigil in front of the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Seoul on Thursday night to further press for Cho's dismissal.

In addition, five more LKP lawmakers -- Reps. Kim Seok-ki, Song Seog-jun, Lee Man-hee, Jang Seok-chun and Choi Gyo-il -- shaved their heads at the National Assembly in protest of Cho's appointment, while former Ulsan mayor and LKP lawmaker Kim Gi-hyun had his head shaved in Ulsan.

Since last Wednesday, LKP Chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn, a dozen incumbent and former LKP lawmakers and a large number of lower-ranking party officials at LKP chapters nationwide have voluntarily shaved their heads to express their resentment over Moon's appointment of Cho as his justice minister.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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