Former Justice Minister Cho Kuk’s wife was sentenced by a Seoul court on Wednesday to a four-year jail term for academic fraud and other charges.
The Seoul Central District Court handed down the jail term, together with a fine of 500 million won (US$451,000) and a forfeit of 140 million won, to Chung Kyung-sim, the wife of the former presidential secretary for civil affairs and a close aide to President Moon Jae-in.
The court also ordered the immediate imprisonment of Ms Chung.
Chung, a 58-year-old professor of Dongyang University, was indicted in November last year on a 15-count charge related to her daughter’s college admission and her dubious investment in a Private Equity Fund (PEF).
Chung is accused of being involved in fabricating documentation from 2013-2014, including a college presidential citation, in order to get her daughter admitted to medical school.
She was also charged with investing in the PEF using somebody else’s name to bypass the code of ethics for public officials and embezzling around 150 million won (US$135,000) through a bogus consulting contract.
The court said Chung colluded with her husband to forge an internship certificate for their daughter, falsely claiming she participated in an international academic conference held at Seoul National University (SNU) Law School in May 2009.
Cho also participated in the forgery of a certificate about his daughter’s internship at a Busan-based hotel, which was used for her university admission.
The court also said it is sufficiently recognised that Chung forged a Dongyang University presidential citation for her daughter’s college admission and her daughter had never done award-winning volunteer work at the private university.
It ruled that Chung obstructed the admission procedures of the SNU medical school by submitting fabricated qualifications and documents.
Chung was also suspected of having been involved in the destruction of evidence by instructing her asset manager to conceal her office PC and delete PEF-related documents.
But the court said she cannot be punished for charges related to the destruction of evidence and embezzlement of PEF money.
Throughout court hearings, Chung denied all allegations against her, arguing that academic records of her daughter were just overstated instead of being fabricated and her PEF deal was not an investment but a simple loan.
Chung was released from nearly seven months of detention in May after the Seoul court decided not to extend her arrest.
In the previous hearing on November 5, prosecutors demanded a prison term of seven years, a fine of 900 million won and forfeiture of 160 million won for Chung.
Cho, who resigned as justice minister in October last year after just one month in office, was also indicted later on a dozen charges, including bribery, in connection with his daughter’s academic credentials and school scholarship, as well as his family’s suspicious private equity investments.