NATIONAL

Special counsel indicts Kim, Cho over blacklist

By Bak Se-hwan
  • Published : Feb 7, 2017 - 16:13
  • Updated : Feb 7, 2017 - 16:13
The special counsel team investigating the President Park Geun-hye scandal indicted four more of her former aides on Tuesday, including the chief of staff and a culture minister, on charges that they were involved in the creation of a blacklist of artists deemed critical of the Park administration.

With the indictments of Kim Ki-choon, Cho Yoon-sun, Kim Sang-ryul and Kim So-young, the team is close to wrapping up its inquiry into the blacklist allegation, part of its multifaceted investigation into the corruption and influence-peddling allegedly committed by Park, her close friend Choi Soon-sil and their shared inner circle. 

Cho Yoon-sun(left) and Kim Ki-choon. Yonhap

“The arraignment states President Park as an accomplice to some of the charges,” Lee Kyu-chul, spokesperson for Special Counsel Park Young-soo said at a press briefing. The systematic discrimination against cultural figures and organizations critical of the administration has recently been added to the charges that President Park faces in the ongoing impeachment trial.

Park cannot be indicted under the law which gives her criminal immunity as sitting president.

Tuesday’s prosecution of the four brings the total number of indictments related to the artist blacklist to seven, including Cho’s predecessor as culture minister Kim Jong-deok.

According to the probe team, former presidential chief of staff Kim Ki-choon and former Culture Minister Cho Yoon-sun, both detained since last month, led the creation of the list to monitor thousands of dissident artists and block them from winning state funding. For that, Kim and Cho face charges including abuse of power and coercion.

In an interview last week the president flatly denied any knowledge of such a list.

President Park, currently stripped of powers while the Constitutional Court reviews whether to end her presidency, allegedly colluded with her long-time friend, Choi Soon-sil, to extort 77.4 billion won ($65.1 million) from local business groups, including Samsung.

The money was allegedly made in return for political support for the conglomerates.

The blacklisting of artists was first raised last year by former Culture Minister You Jin-ryong, who claimed that Park’s administration excluded renowned cultural figures from state funding.

The probe team sees that the creation of the list was led by Park’s chief of staff Kim, under the president’s directive, and handed over to the culture ministry to execute the crackdown.

The list reportedly includes “Oldboy” director Park Chan-wook and poet Ko Un, along with other high-profile celebrities who criticized the government over the way it handled the rescue operations of the Sewol ferry incident 2014 which claimed the lives of 300 people.

Cho, who served as Park’s senior secretary for political affairs before becoming the culture minister, is suspected of attempting to block the airing of a documentary critical of the government’s handling of the ferry disaster at the Busan International Film Festival in 2014. The movie aired despite Busan city’s opposition. The film festival then suffered a 50 percent cut in state subsidy.

The probe team plans to conduct a face-to-face interrogation of President Park over her alleged role in the blacklist creation and others.

The grilling, largely expected to be carried out this Thursday or Friday, will make Park the first sitting president to receive prosecution enquiry.

By Bak Se-hwan (sh@heraldcorp.com)