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7 years in jail sought for Park’s chief of staff in blacklist scandal

South Korea’s special counsel sought six to seven years in jail for former President Park Geun-hye’s chief of staff and culture minister for secretly blacklisting and discriminating against artists critical of the Park administration. 

Former chief of staff Kim Ki-choon. Yonhap
Former chief of staff Kim Ki-choon. Yonhap

In the appeals trial at the Seoul High Court on Tuesday, Special Counsel Park Young-soo demanded a seven-year imprisonment for Kim Ki-choon and six years for Cho Yoon-sun, who were indicted in February over allegations they created the blacklist of nearly 10,000 artists in the fields of film, music and literature. Kim served as Park’s chief of staff while Cho held posts as culture minister and presidential secretary for political affairs.

“The defendants committed the crimes to discriminate against artists just because they had different views, although democracy acknowledges the right to differ,” a member of the counsel team said during the final hearing of the trial.

The list was created and used under the Park administration to exclude left-wing figures from state support, part of a massive scandal that toppled the Park presidency. The former president, expelled from office in March, is now standing trial separately on 18 charges.

Those on the blacklist included writer Han Kang, who won the 2016 Man Booker International Prize, and director Park Chan-wook of “Oldboy” fame. Many were put on the list for their liberal-leaning political views, but some were added due to criticism of the Park administration’s botched handling of the 2014 sinking of the Sewol ferry, which claimed more than 300 lives, mainly children on a school trip.

A lower court convicted Kim and Cho in July.

Kim was sentenced to three years in jail while Cho was released on a one-year jail sentence suspended for two years.

Both the counsel and the defendants appealed.

Also on Tuesday, the counsel team demanded jail terms for five others ranging from three to six years in prison, include former Culture Minister Kim Jong-deok and senior secretary for education and culture Kim Sang-ryul concerning the same charges.

Kim succeeded Cho as culture minister when Cho was picked for the Blue House secretary position.

Park, the first female president elected in Korea, was arrested on March 31 and indicted on April 17.

Park’s main charges include abuse of power, bribery, coercion and leaking government secrets. Park’s scandal first came to the surface in October 2016, leading to her impeachment in December.

By Bak Se-hwan (