A Seoul court held a hearing Friday to decide whether to issue arrest warrants for an incumbent culture minister and a former presidential chief of staff over their suspected involvement in blacklisting thousands of artists deemed critical of the government.
Special investigators looking into the massive scandal involving President Park Geun-hye have sought warrants for Minister Cho Yoon-sun and former Presidential Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon on charges of abuse of authority and perjury.
The hearing, held at the Seoul Central District Court, lasted three hours. The decision was yet to be made as of press time. It is likely to come out near or after midnight.
During the hearing, the special investigation team stressed that blacklisting artists for their political or ideological beliefs is a grave violation of the Constitution and infringement of freedom of expression.
Culture Minister Cho Yoon-sun (Yonhap)
Cho became the culture minister last year after serving as senior presidential secretary for political affairs from 2014 to 2015.
Kim, who served as presidential chief of staff from 2013 to 2015, is said to have exerted huge influence on state affairs beyond his position.
Former Presidential Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon (Yonhap)
The investigators suspect that the two played key roles in the alleged creation of the list to exclude from state funding cultural figures considered unfavorable to the conservative administration. It reportedly included nearly 10,000 artists, including Cannes-winning film director Park Chan-wook, Man Booker International Prize winner Han Kang and renowned poet Ko Un.
Both Choi and Kim flatly denied the allegations. During parliamentary hearings, they denied the existence of such a list.
The special prosecutors said the list existed, without disclosing it, and added perjury to the charges of the two.
Three have already been arrested for the list, including former Culture Minister Kim Jong-deok.
A local media outlet reported Friday that Cho admitted to the investigators having created the list on Kim Ki-choon’s orders, but the minister denied the report.
Meanwhile, the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea on Friday said it will push for a motion to demand the dismissal of Cho.
“If she was engaged in the blacklist, Cho is no longer qualified as a minister,” Floor Leader Rep. Woo Sang-ho said.
By Kim Da-sol (firstname.lastname@example.org