Kim Kyoung-soo, a provincial governor and key aide to President Moon Jae-in, was questioned by special prosecutors on Monday over allegations that he colluded with a power blogger to manipulate political comments online in order to sway public opinion.
Kim, governor of South Gyeongsang Province, appeared in front of the independent counsel team’s office in Seoul at 9:30 a.m. He denied his involvement in the opinion-rigging case.
“I have asked for the independent counsel investigation for this case from the very beginning. I have said many times before that I will confidently participate in any kind of probe as well,” Gov. Kim said at a photo line set up in front of the office building.
Gov. Kim Kyoung-soo appears for questioning by special prosecutors on Monday. (Yonhap)
“The people and I all want the independent counsel to find the truth. I request for prosecutors not to expand political conflict but to sincerely investigate the truth,” he said.
When the opinion-rigging scandal broke out in January this year, prosecutors believed that Kim Dong-won, the power blogger with the nickname “Druking,” had conducted an opinion-rigging campaign to sway public opinion in favor of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea. Prosecutors at the time viewed that it was Kim who approached lawmakers to ask for illicit solicitation.
But the independent counsel team, headed by special prosecutor Huh Ik-bum, now believes Gov. Kim might be an accomplice of Kim Dong-won, based on findings since the team was launched in May.
It has found evidence of instant messages shared between Gov. Kim and Kim Dong-won, and is weighing the blogger’s claim that it was actually Gov. Kim who had ordered the opinion-rigging campaign.
According to the special prosecutors, Kim Dong-won introduced the automated software dubbed “King Crab” to Gov. Kim when he visited Druking’s team in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, in November 2016.
South Gyeongsang Province Gov. Kim Kyoung-soo is surrounded by reporters as he arrives at the special counsel's office in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap)
The South Gyeongsang governor is also suspected of violating the election law, allegedly asking Kim for help for the June 13 local elections, in which he was elected the provincial governor. The governor is accused of promising him a consular representative position in Japan for his help.
According to the independent counsel team, the entire investigation process will be video recorded
Before Gov. Kim, 50, was elected for the provincial governor position in the June 13 local elections, he was a first-term lawmaker representing Gimhae in South Gyeongsang Province.
Parties across the aisle showed conflicting reactions to the questioning of Gov. Kim. The ruling Democratic Party of Korea, continued to support Gov. Kim.
“The independent counsel is manipulating the media and has caused embarrassment by publicly accusing (Gov. Kim) for unchecked allegations,” Rep. Choo Mi-ae, the party’s chairwoman, said at a party meeting Monday.
Taking issue with previous reports that a similar opinion manipulation case occurred involving the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, Rep. Choo also called for an investigation into the conservative faction.
Opposition parties, on the other hand, proposed the idea of extending the operation period of the independent counsel team, as its probe is due to end on Aug. 26.
“For the rights of the people, everything should be clarified about the Druking scandal. If more evidence is revealed from Gov. Kim’s questioning, we can even talk about extending the period of the special prosecutorial probe,” Kim Byung-joon, the interim chief of the Liberty Korea Party told reporters after a party meeting Monday.
By Jo He-rim (firstname.lastname@example.org