The People’s Party’s internal investigation has questioned Ahn Cheol-soo, the party’s founder and former presidential candidate over a fabricated accusation against President Moon Jae-in’s son during the May election, the party said Sunday.
“The team has interviewed former party chairman Ahn in person for about 50 minutes at a venue in Seoul this afternoon,” Rep. Kim Kwan-young, who leads the party’s investigation team, said.
“We will announce our findings, including the results of Ahn’s interview, no later than early this week,” the lawmaker said.
Ahn, who stood to benefit directly from the fake tip-off against Moon’s son, has so far kept quiet on the scandal, resisting mounting pressure on him to clarify whether or not he knew about it, or played any part in the smear campaign.
The party’s speedy move, which coincides with a prosecutorial investigation into two party members behind the alleged set up, is a telltale sign of the gravity of the scandal engulfing the centrist group, trying to play the role of a political middle ground in the liberal-conservative rivalry.
|People’s Party leader Rep. Park Joo-sun touches his face as he prepares for a press conference on Sunday about the scandal that involves his party member making a false accusation against the son of President Moon Jae-in during the presidential race in May. Yonhap|
“There will be no limits to our investigation. Regardless of their positions in the party, everyone involved will undergo the probe until we get to the bottom of the truth,” said Park Joo-sun, the party’s chief in a press conference at the National Assembly, Sunday.
At the center of the scandal is the arrested Lee You-mi, People’s Party rank-and-file member and former professor Ahn’s pupil from Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology.
During the prosecutorial probe, she admitted to making up fake evidence against the president’s son, Moon Joon-yong, to support the party’s claim that he was unfairly hired by the Korea Employment Information Service in late 2006 with his father’s help. Moon Jae-in, at that time, served as a senior presidential secretary for then President Roh Moo-hyun.
The allegation was built on an altered audio recording of a man who claimed to be Moon Joon-yong’s schoolmate at the Parsons School of Design in New York, and screenshots of Kakao Talk messages exchanged between him and Lee.
State prosecutors investigating the scandal are to summon former senior members of the party on Monday to ask whether they had orchestrated the scheme.
Among them are Lee Yong-ju, who is accused of receiving the fabricated information from the rank-and-file member Lee and relaying it to the nation’s election watchdog.
In a text message sent to the reporters last week, the arrested Lee said she worked under the instruction of her party leadership, accusing them of seeking to “hide the trace.” The party leaders, such as former interim chief Rep. Park Jie-won, denied the accusation.
“The people were deceived (by Lee’s falsified claim), so did we,” said Park Joo-sun. “The only thing that can salvage us is the truth. If need be, we will receive an investigation by special counsel. We will seek a complete overhaul of the party’s management.”
The scandal has dealt a serious blow to the third-biggest party, putting its approval rating at an all-time low. According to a poll conducted by Gallup on Saturday, the People’s Party’s had a support rating of 5 percent, 2 percentage points lower than that of the minor Justice Party and main opposition Liberty Korea Party.
By Yeo Jun-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org)