President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday asked the National Assembly to send a confirmation hearing report on a justice minister nominee facing corruption allegations involving his family, moving a step closer to appointing him.
While on overseas trips, the president requested parliament to send the hearing report on the nominee, Cho Kuk, to the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae by Friday, according to Yoon Do-han, senior presidential secretary for public communication.
The assembly's adoption of a confirmation hearing report is a procedural means to express its consent to the president's nomination of minister-level officials. But such a document is not mandatory for the president to appoint his pick.
Moon is expected to press ahead with the appointment as early as the weekend. He is set to return home Friday from a trip to three Southeast Asian nations.
The president made similar requests for other five minister-level officials, all of whom were nominated in a Cabinet shakeup last month.
"Technically speaking, it would be possible for the assembly to hold a confirmation hearing (for Cho), but it is up to political parties," Yoon told a press briefing.
He said Cho faithfully explained his stance during a press conference held at the National Assembly on Monday after a hearing, originally set for Monday and Tuesday, fell through due to political wrangling.
Monday was the legal deadline by which the parliament should have sent such a report to Cheong Wa Dae.
Cho, former senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, has faced a public outcry over alleged irregularities, including the suspected unfair entrance of his 28-year-old daughter into an elite university and a hefty investment by members of his family in a private equity fund (PEF).
Cho has denied key corruption allegations related to his daughter's education and other suspicions.
Moon's nomination of Cho reflects his commitment to reforming the state prosecution to guarantee its political neutrality and grant more investigative power to police.
The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) condemned Moon's request as a prelude to pushing ahead with the appointment without a confirmation hearing. The party called for a hearing to be held five days later.
"It is so deplorable. We cannot help making a heavy-hearted decision (if Moon appoints Cho)," LKP floor leader Na Kyung-won said without elaborating.
The prosecution has been intensifying its probe into the allegations since it carried out simultaneous raids on 20 locations last week.
Earlier in the day, it raided an office of Cho's wife at Dongyang University in Yeongju, 229 kilometers southeast of Seoul, and the Korea International Cooperation Agency in Seongnam, just south of Seoul, where his daughter did volunteer work as a high school student.
Prosecution investigators have also summoned for questioning a Dongguk University professor, who in 2008 listed Cho's daughter as the primary writer of his medical research paper.
Cho's daughter was then in the 11th grade and only took part in a private two-week internship program run by the professor. Critics claim the paper may have helped the daughter's admission into one of the most prestigious universities in the country.
Prosecutors also questioned an official from the equity fund manager, which is suspected to have been run by and only for Cho and his family members, and some board members of a private school foundation owned by his family.