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Leak of Moon’s phone chat with Trump stokes controversy

Controversy is growing after the government revealed that a diplomat had leaked to an opposition lawmaker details of the May 7 telephone conversation between President Moon Jae-in and US President Donald Trump.

Rep. Khang Hyo-shang. Yonhap
Rep. Khang Hyo-shang. Yonhap

During a press conference on May 9, Rep. Khang Hyo-shang of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party disclosed what the two leaders had said on the phone, including Moon’s invitation to Trump to visit Korea.

The presidential office and the Foreign Ministry here said Thursday that a 54-year-old diplomat at the Korean Embassy in Washington had leaked the confidential information to Khang.

The leadership of the Liberty Korea Party is defending Khang, while all the other parties are criticizing the leak.

“The leak was an act of whistleblowing to reveal the humiliating diplomacy and demagogy of this administration,” Liberty Korea Party Floor Leader Rep. Na Kyung-won said in a meeting at the National Assembly on Thursday.

“It looks like (the presidential office) is blaming everything on the public official now that it’s been caught deceiving the people.”

Khang added that the inspection by the Blue House was an attempt to “blackmail civil servants and gag opposition parties.”

Ruling Democratic Party of Korea spokesman Lee Jae-jung said in a statement that there is deep concern that the leak could “undermine the Korea-US alliance, and have a negative influence on future summits.”

Minor opposition Bareunmirae Party spokesman Lee Jong-cheol said in a statement that “the leak of diplomatic secrets by an incumbent diplomat was an act of severe breach of state discipline.”

Meanwhile, Kim Jung-hyun, spokesperson of the minor Party for Democracy for Democracy and Peace, said, “The public official who leaked (the classified information) must be given exemplary punishment to block any chance of another leak of state secrets.”

Rep. Yoon Sang-hyun of the Liberty Korea Party wrote on Facebook that one “must never do something that damages national interests for the sake of partisan interests.”

A senior Blue House official refuted the Liberty Korea Party’s claims, saying the actions of the diplomat and Khang did do not constitute whistleblowing, which is exposing any illegal or unethical activity within an organization.

The Foreign Ministry said it was looking into the matter and would take appropriate actions upon reaching a conclusion. The inspection will cover all employees of the embassy in the US, as the case has revealed a loophole in the embassy’s security.

According to security protocol, only Ambassador Cho Yoon-je was authorized to see the content of the telephone conversation between Moon and Trump, but other embassy officials allegedly saw it too.

The diplomat who leaked the information and Khang attended the same high school and university.

By Kim So-hyun (