Korean professors indicted in admissions case tied to politics

Former justice minster and wife alleged to have faked materials for children’s university applications

January 2, 2020
Source: The Republic of Korea Cheong Wa Dae, via Wikipedia Commons
Professor Cho Kuk

A former South Korean justice minister and his wife, both university professors, have been charged following an academic misconduct investigation tied to their children’s university applications.

Cho Kuk, the former minister who is a professor at Seoul National University, and Chung Kyung-shim, a Dongyang University professor, were indicted on multiple charges on 31 December, the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office confirmed to Times Higher Education. 

The charges against Professor Cho, which come after months of investigation into academic misconduct, include bribery, falsifying documents and obstruction of business, the Yonhap news agency reported. Professors Cho and Chung are accused of faking materials for their son’s application to law school and their daughter’s entry to medical school. 

Professor Cho resigned as justice minister on 14 October after less than two months in the role. That same day he asked to return as a professor at SNU, which granted his request, The Korea Herald reported. He is listed on the SNU website as a criminal law expert. 

The Korea Biomedical Review wrote on 28 December that “medical research ethics [were] tarnished” by the case, which allegedly involved the couple’s then high school-aged daughter being listed as lead author on a Korean Journal of Pathology study, which was later withdrawn.

“The scandal left the medical community with a daunting task of restoring trust in medical research,” The Korea Biomedical Review wrote. “After the scandal, professors at the National Cancer Center were found to have put their children’s names as authors of medical journals in an attempt to unfairly boost their academic credentials. The National Academy of Medicine of Korea released a ‘public statement on medical research ethics’, emphasising the conscience and education of researchers and calling for the medical community to have self-reflection.”

The Korea Times wrote in an opinion piece that it was important “to overcome ideological conflicts between left and right, which culminated in a corruption scandal involving former justice minister Cho Kuk and his family. [President] Moon [Jae-in] should not compromise his anti-corruption drive. He must put actions before words to create a fair and just society.”

A spokesman from the president’s office, speaking to the media, questioned the motivation behind the prosecutor’s probe.  

joyce.lau@timeshighereducation.com 

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Reader's comments (1)

In this and the previous article on Cho Kuk, the author failed to show the highly political nature of the case. As Minister of Justice, Prof. Cho Kuk announced broad reforms of the Judiciary aimed at curbing the power of the Prosecutor's Office. Consequently, he himself and his whole family (wife, daughter and son) came under fierce attack of the Attorney General and his team of prosecutors. The indictment came on the eve of the new Law of the R.O.K. which is the effect of Prof. Cho Kuk's efforts and will successfully control the political power of the Attorney General. The charges against Prof. Cho Kuk and his family are very thin and are yet to be proven in court. What should be of bigger interest to the global academic community is another scandal, regrettably little commented on by the press in English. One of the Prosecution's main witnesses against Prof. Cho Kuk, President of Dongyang University , Mr. Choi Sung-hae, turned out to have cheated his way into office, lying about his Master's and Ph.D. degrees from the Temple University, and the Washington Baptist University in the US. More can be found on English edition of the JoongAng Daily: http://mengnews.joins.com/view.aspx?aid=3071715 Marcin Jacoby, SWPS University

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