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Police probe liberal podcast hosts

Police are investigating four panelists of an Internet podcast over allegations they spread false information about Na Kyung-won, the Grand National Party’s unsuccessful candidate in Wednesday’s Seoul mayoral by-election.

According to the National Police Agency, the investigation was launched after Na’s election camp filed a complaint against the four ― political commentator Kim Yong-min; former Democratic Party lawmaker Chung Bong-ju; magazine reporter Ju Jin-woo; and Kim Eo-jun, head of online media outlet, Ddanzi ― on Oct. 24.

During the podcast “Naneun Ggomsuda (I am a slacker),” they claimed Na attends an exclusive skincare clinic with an annual membership of 100 million won ($86,000).

Na claimed the information was groundless and a violation of the Election Law.

The allegation was made on Oct. 19 when Ju revealed that Na had repeatedly visited a dermatologist in the affluent area of Gangnam, southern Seoul, and that the treatment cost about 50 million won per session. Ju said he had interviewed the head of the clinic several times and secured enough evidence to support his comment.

The revelation caused a stir among the downloadable show’s listeners, who accused Na of being “extravagant” when the Seoul Mayor is supposed to serve ordinary citizens.

Na’s camp explained that she had visited the clinic to take care of her daughter, who has Down’s syndrome, and that she had visited only handful of times for herself. She said the treatment was not too expensive.

The investigators said they will visit the clinic to verify the exact treatment fee and will decide whether to summon the four as witnesses or suspects.

Naneun Ggomsuda is ranked the most downloaded political podcast in the world. According to Real Meter, a survey conductor, about 15.7 percent of those surveyed have listened to the program.

The majority of the listeners are thought to be relatively young and liberal and open to criticism of the GNP and Lee Myung-bak administration.

Chung Bong-ju on Friday denounced the police investigation.

“It is a suppression of freedom to express,” he said.

Internet users have also supported the show’s hosts.

“Na had admitted to have visited the clinic. She also admitted to have received treatments. What’s more to prove?” a netizen said on www.daum.net’s bulletin.

Meanwhile, the NPA said a total of 110 people are being investigated for violation of election law. Those probed include Rev. Kim Hong-do of Kumnan Church, who told his followers, “Not to vote for the satanic candidate.”

But the investigators said they will not seek to charge people who have encouraged others to vote on election day, which the National Election Commission defined as “infringement.”

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)
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