|Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office chief Cho Young-gon (left) and Yoon Seok-yeol, chief of the local prosecutors’ office in Yeoju, Gyeonggi Province, attend the parliamentary audit on the prosecutors’ office in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap News)|
Two ranking prosecutors involved in the probe over the National Intelligence Service’s alleged intervention in last year’s presidential election clashed on Monday, with local prosecutors’ office head Yoon Seok-yeol alleging interference from high ranking officials and Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office chief Cho Young-gon claiming insubordination on Yoon’s part.
Yoon, chief of the local prosecutor’s office in Yeoju, Gyeonggi Province, had headed the investigation into the case until he was removed last week over allegations that he ignored the command structure in modifying the arraignment notice on the case and in arresting NIS agents.
“There was (outside influence) from the beginning of the investigation,” Yoon said at Monday’s parliamentary audit of the prosecution.
He also said that he considers that Minister of Justice Hwang Kyo-ahn to be involved in interfering in the investigation.
Yoon also defended his part in the developments that led to his removal from the case, saying that all of his actions were reported to Cho beforehand.
“I submitted the report containing NIS Twitter accounts at the home of the chief (Cho) and said that arrest warrants needed to be issued quickly,” Yoon said. He also said that the report specified the direction the investigation would take and that Cho gave verbal approval of the changes to the arraignment on separate occasions.
“There were no irregularities according to the law nor under the prosecutors’ regulations.”
Saying that Cho responded to his report by saying that the suggested actions would “help the opposition party,” and that the steps should be taken “after I submit my resignation,” Yoon said that the investigation was being manipulated.
“As the NIS agents were being questioned on the 17th, orders came to release them and to return the confiscated materials,” Yoon said.
“Judging by the fact that such pressure was being applied, I felt that indicting (suspects) would not be possible.”
Cho, for his part, accused Yoon of insubordination and of ignoring protocol.
“What Yoon claims to have been reports did not have the proper structure. Reporting is not there to inform your superiors,” Cho said, adding that he would take responsibility if such judgment was in error.
As the controversy surrounding the investigation into the NIS expanded, the main opposition Democratic Party stepped up the pressure over the alleged election interference by the military’s cyber warfare command.
According to the opposition party, the military unit systematically posted and regenerated comments against the then DP presidential candidate Rep. Moon Jae-in.
“It was systematic interference. We have much data to support this,” DP’s Rep. Jin Sung-joon said in a radio interview on Monday. According to Jin, the DP has secured IDs used by cyber command personnel and posts made under the IDs.
“The whole story has not been revealed, and what has been revealed is the tip of the iceberg, a tip that is as small as the tip of a needle.”
The cyber warfare command has denied all allegations, and the Ministry of Defense is set to announce the results of its probe into the situation on Tuesday.
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org