Pros­e­cu­tion widen­ing probe into Cheong Wa Dae

The Korea Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Kang Seung-woo [email protected]­re­

Amid mount­ing sus­pi­cions of “im­proper in­ves­ti­ga­tions” by the of­fice of the se­nior pres­i­den­tial sec­re­tary for civic af­fairs, the pros­e­cu­tion is seek­ing to con­duct a search and seizure oper­a­tion of its Cheong Wa Dae lo­ca­tion, and will sum­mon cur­rent and for­mer of­fi­cials for ques­tion­ing.

Sev­eral in­cum­bent and for­mer of­fi­cials work­ing at the of­fice are sus­pected of hav­ing ex­erted in­flu­ence to abruptly end an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by a spe­cial team into al­leged il­le­gal­i­ties com­mit­ted by for­mer Bu­san Vice Mayor Yoo Jae-soo; and also to have med­dled in last year’s lo­cal elec­tions in Ul­san.

Some of­fi­cials have al­ready been sum­moned for ques­tion­ing, while one of the for­mer in­ves­ti­ga­tors, who was sched­uled to be ques­tioned Sun­day af­ter­noon about the elec­tion med­dling al­le­ga­tions, killed him­self hours be­fore he was to ap­pear be­fore pros­e­cu­tors.

Car­ry­ing out a search and seizure oper­a­tion at Cheong Wa Dae, a fa­cil­ity linked to na­tional se­cu­rity, is vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble, there­fore pros­e­cu­tors are ex­pected to ask the civic af­fairs of­fice to sub­mit re­quested doc­u­ments.

The pros­e­cu­tion wants doc­u­men­ta­tion re­lated to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Yoo, which was be­ing con­ducted by the spe­cial in­spec­tion team that was un­der the of­fice it­self.

The team re­port­edly used dig­i­tal forensics in Oc­to­ber 2017 to con­firm al­le­ga­tions that Yoo took bribes from fi­nan­cial firms when he worked at the Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Com­mis­sion. But the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was abruptly halted for un­known rea­sons, help­ing Yoo to avoid be­ing charged, and to be­come vice mayor in charge of eco­nomic af­fairs in 2018. Yoo is cur­rently in cus­tody on un­re­lated mat­ters.

Cho Kuk, who was the se­nior pres­i­den­tial sec­re­tary for civic af­fairs at the time, and Baek Won-woo, a for­mer pres­i­den­tial sec­re­tary for civic af­fairs, are ex­pected to be sum­moned for ques­tion­ing over their roles in the af­fair. Park Hy­oung-chul, a for­mer pres­i­den­tial anti-cor­rup­tion sec­re­tary, has al­ready been ques­tioned.

Baek is also sus­pected of be­ing in­volved in the pres­i­den­tial of­fice’s al­leged elec­tion-med­dling.

In March last year, the Ul­san Metropoli­tan Po­lice Agency raided the of­fices of then Ul­san Mayor Kim Gi-hyeon’s aides af­ter re­ceiv­ing in­for­ma­tion on al­leged cor­rup­tion from the Na­tional Po­lice Agency (NPA). The tip-off re­ceived by the NPA was for­warded by Baek.

How­ever, the aides were cleared of all the ac­cu­sa­tions, but not un­til Kim lost the elec­tion, rais­ing sus­pi­cions that the pres­i­den­tial of­fice or­ches­trated the in­ves­ti­ga­tion to help a close friend of Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in win.

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