|Investigators leave the home of a government official involved in the leak of personal information of a child alleged to be the illegitimate son of former Prosecutor General Chae Dong-wook in southern Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap News)|
The prosecution on Thursday raided the home and office of an official suspected of requesting a presidential staffer to check the personal information of a child alleged to be an illegitimate son of former Prosecutor General Chae Dong-wook.
The official, identified only with his surname Kim and affiliated with the Ministry of Security and Public Administration, has denied the allegation raised by the presidential office following its internal probe into the case.
The prosecution said it will also question Kim soon and the ministry said it is separately conducting an internal probe into Kim by checking his call records.
The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office said it has seized documents and files at his residence in Seoul and his office in Gyeonggi Province to corroborate the charges.
The prosecution commented earlier in the day that it has questioned Cho Oh-young, who is under investigation for illegally looking into the family registration file and tracking down the home address of the 11-year-old boy through an official at the Seocho-gu Office in June, about three months before the scandal broke out in September.
The presidential staff member was requested by the home ministry official Kim to access the personal information on the child, Cheong Wa Dae said after an internal investigation. Cho, a 54-year-old staffer on Cheong Wa Dae’s general affairs team, was removed from his position Wednesday.
The prosecution said it summoned Cho on Wednesday evening to find out why he made such a request and who else was involved in the illegal act.
Cheong Wa Dae reacted in a puzzled manner but remained silent as the ongoing investigation could rekindle attacks from opposition parties over the alleged election meddling of state agencies, conducted in favor of Park Geun-hye, the ruling party’s candidate at the time.
The finding could also deepen suspicions that the presidential office engineered Chae’s resignation as the prosecution chief for aggressively investigating the alleged election meddling.
Chae offered to resign from his post a week after a report on him having a son through an extramarital affair was published by the Chosun Ilbo, one of the major South Korean dailies, in early September.
The DP has been claiming that Cheong Wa Dae and the National Intelligence Service may be pulling the strings behind the scenes.
Opposition parties slammed Cheong Wa Dae for sidestepping the case.
The presidential office confirmed Wednesday that Cho was involved in the leak of personal information on the boy, saying that the illegal act was carried out by himself, and no other Blue House officials were involved.
The main opposition DP raised suspicions that Cheong Wa Dae may have played a behind-the-scenes role in pressuring the former prosecutor general to resign.
“The Cheong Wa Dae’s claim that the case was a personal aberration is just like cutting off the tail (of a lizard),” said DP floor leader Rep. Jun Byung-hun.
“The claim is just like its reaction toward the alleged election interference of the NIS and the military (which were also claimed to be independent acts),” he said during a policy meeting with senior party members.
Rep. Chun Ho-sun, chairman of the minority Justice Party, also agreed with the DP that Cheong Wa Dae has orchestrated the illegal access to the boy’s information.
“Cheong Wa Dae appears to have organized the crime,” Rep. Chun said.
“At first, Cheong Wa Dae said that it was a personal aberration, but it became clear that the act was carried out at the request of a home ministry official who used to work with Kwak Sang-do, former presidential senior secretary for civil affairs until May,” he said. It is also evident that the presidential office has ousted Chae for abusing his authority by meddling in personal matters, he added.
Rep. Chun also urged Cheong Wa Dae to take political responsibility over the scandal and called for an independent probe to be launched into the alleged illegal interference by state institutions in last year’s presidential election.
By Cho Chung-un (firstname.lastname@example.org)