NATIONAL

[Newsmaker] Police say lawmaker was in contact with comment rigger

By Bak Se-hwan
  • Published : Apr 20, 2018 - 15:02
  • Updated : Apr 20, 2018 - 17:53
Democratic Party Rep. Kim Kyung-soo had communicated with a blogger accused of manipulating online opinions, the police said Friday, contradicting earlier statements.

According to the latest revelations, Kim had sent the blogger, known by the online name Druking, links to news articles about President Moon Jae-in in what they suspect was an attempt to ramp up the number of clicks on “Agree” on a local search engine -- an equivalent of Facebook’s “Like.”

Rep. Kim Kyoung-soo of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea talks to reporters at a provincial government building in South Gyeongsang Province on Friday. Yonhap

In a briefing Friday, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency investigating allegations surrounding the 48-year-old blogger confirmed that the blogger responded to Kim by saying things like “I will handle it.”

Earlier, the presidential office said that it “will follow the National Assembly’s decision (on the matter)” amid opposition parties’ growing calls for a launch of a special counsel into the online comment-rigging scandal.

The presidential officials told reporters Thursday that the launch of a special counsel “is to be decided through an agreement at the parliament among parties,” adding that Cheong Wa Dae is not supposed to be a decision maker in the process.

Kim Sung-tae, floor leader of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, visited Cheong Wa Dae on Friday in protest of what he called the attempt by Cheong Wa Dae and police to “conceal the truth.”

“There’s a suspicion that Cheong Wa Dae is involved (in the online opinion rigging scandal), so launching a special counsel investigation is inevitable,” Kim said. 

Rep. Kim Kyung-soo who is considerd part of Moon’s inner circle sent the blogger a total of 14 messages via Telegram messenger between November 2016 and March this year. Of them, 10 messages contained web addresses, according to police. 

Police also said they tracked down other online chats between the two over the messaging app Signal, although they gave no further details about the chats as the investigation is ongoing.

Druking, who is in custody along with his two accomplices and was indicted Tuesday on the charge of obstruction of business, allegedly used illegal software to jack up the number of agrees on news articles in favor of Moon and sway political opinion.

The blogger has run an offline organization for economic justice since 2014, attracting some 2,400 avid members.

Friday’s briefing by the police came just a day after local broadcaster SBS reported that Kim and the blogger shared between them at least 10 messages and web links to news articles.

The report contradicts the police’s earlier statement that Kim barely read any of the messages sent by the blogger, sparking criticism by opposition parties that police are trying to play down a case involving a figure close to Moon.

Kim is running for governor of South Gyeongsang Province.

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