Disgraced ex-Minister Cho Kuk returns as political phenom

Rebuilding Korea Party Chairman Cho Kuk gives a statement  at the National Assembly in Yeouido, Seoul, Wednesday, after exit polls showed that his party was anticipated to secure 12 to 14 seats in the general elections. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk

Disgraced former Justice Minister Cho Kuk, leader of the liberal minor opposition Rebuilding Korea Party (RKP), is rising as a political phenom, as the exit polls of Wednesday’s general elections showed that his party will claim a significant portion of proportional representation seats in the next National Assembly.His rise is expected to pose a new threat to the Yoon Suk Yeol administration, as the party has made it clear during the election campaign that its goal is to punish the “autocratic” administration which it claims is controlled by former prosecutors including Yoon.According to exit polls by three public broadcasters KBS, MBC and SBS, the RKP is anticipated to secure 12 to 14 seats out of 46 reserved for proportional representation. The RKP did not field any constituency candidates.If the final election results, which will be confirmed early Thursday morning, stand within the exit poll range, the RKP will be the third-largest political party in Korea, following the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) and its satellite Democratic United Party with 178 to 197 seats, and the ruling People Power Party (PPP) and its satellite People Future Party with 85 to 105 seats.After the exit polls were revealed, Cho said, “The people have clearly shown their hopes for a verdict on the Yoon administration … Yoon should humbly accept the outcome, and apologize to the public for his wrongdoings and corruption.”The minor liberal party was created just a month before the elections and quickly rose above a slew of newly created parties, scoring double-digit support ratings in multiple surveys. It was buoyed by Cho’s personal political background and the party’s aggressive catchphrase: “three years are too long,” referring to Yoon’s remaining presidential term.

Cho, who was the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs and justice minister during the previous Moon Jae-in administration, is widely described as one of the major antagonists in Yoon’s saga to the presidency.He has been standing trial for years over allegations that he and his wife fabricated academic documents to get their daughter admitted to a medical school. Yoon, who was prosecutor-general at the time, butted heads with Moon in 2020 by insisting on investigating Cho. This propelled Yoon to become a political star among conservatives and eventually be elected president.While Yoon clinched the power, the investigation continued and courts found Cho, his wife and daughter guilty. Cho lost his job as a professor at Seoul National University, his wife went to prison and the daughter lost her medical license.“Under the Yoon administration, Cho’s family literally has lost everything, and this background styled him as a political champion who lost everything and is standing against the administration,” said Lee Jae-mook, a politics professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.“An interesting point is that many RKP supporters are sympathizing with Cho’s predicament, saying they feel guilty about what happened to him. And this tendency is noticeable among those in liberal strongholds who have experiences of suffering suppression by conservative governments.”With Cho highlighting his party’s clear goal of ending the Yoon administration early, the public sentiment against the president apparently helped the RKP enjoy its rise.“Cho’s message of ‘three years are too long’ implies a negative idea, yet it resonated powerfully with the people, because it was more positive than blatantly saying we need to oust the president right now,” 온라인카지노 said Cho Jin-man, a politics professor at Duksung Women’s University.

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