Justice Minister nominee Cho Kuk faces snowballing corruption and fraud allegations involving his family, with political parties bickering over whether he is qualified to lead the law ministry.
A series of scandals ranging from academics-related allegations about Cho's daughter and his dubious hefty investment in a private equity fund to his previous involvement in a left-leaning group have made headlines since his nomination in a Cabinet shakeup on Aug. 9.
In particular, college students have shown an angry reaction to allegations that his 28-year-old daughter had received scholarships worth 12 million won ($9,928) at a medical school despite her low academic performance.
A fresh allegation was raised Tuesday over whether his daughter was admitted to a prestigious university in Seoul through unlawful procedures.
She was registered as a primary writer for a pathology thesis when she took part in a two-week internship at a medical science institute as a high school student. Critics have raised suspicions that the academic paper may have helped her enroll in Korea University.
Conservative opposition parties have unleashed political attacks on him, taking issue with what they call his "hypocritical" behaviors.
Cho, former senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, voiced progressive opinions on major social affairs and actively called for the need to root out social ills.
He wrote on his social media in the past that scholarships should be given based on financial needs, not on academic achievements.
Cho said Wednesday he will "humbly" accept public criticism but flatly rejected the allegations about his daughter's college admission as "fake news."
"I will clearly explain the allegations raised so far at a parliamentary confirmation hearing," Cho told reporters.
"But it is outright fake news. There was no procedural problem (about her admission)," he said.
The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) and the minor opposition Bareunmirae Party have hurled a salvo of attacks at Cho and called on him to voluntarily step down.
"President Moon Jae-in should withdraw his nomination of Cho as justice minister and apologize to the public," LKP chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn said at a meeting with senior party members.
The ruling Democratic Party defended Cho as a well-qualified figure able to carry out Moon's drive to reform the prosecution.
The party urged its rivals to stop political offensives.
Moon's choice of Cho apparently reflects the president's firm commitment to sweeping reform of the prosecution to guarantee its political neutrality and grant more investigation power and authority to police.
It is uncertain when Cho's confirmation hearing will be held, given intensive political wrangling.
The hearing is widely seen as a formality, as the formal appointment of a minister-level official does not require approval from the National Assembly. (Yonhap)