The Seoul Central District Court on Wednesday sentenced Kim Ki-chun, former President Park Geun-hye’s chief of staff, to a year in prison suspended for two years for falsifying records on reports received by President Park on the day of the Sewol ferry disaster. The court also acquitted former National Security Office chiefs Kim Jang-soo and Kim Kwan-jin.
Kim Ki-chun and Kim Jang-soo allegedly manipulated records submitted to the National Assembly about the time that former President Park received the initial report over the phone about the Sewol Ferry capsizing, as well as the number of times she received written reports on the sinking.
The prosecution concluded the two had falsified the records to mislead, making it look as though President Park was notified of the accident and gave instructions to rescue passengers before the golden time of 10:17 a.m. on April 16, 2014.
Kim Kwan-jin was accused of altering the content of those presidential instructions without authorization, even though Cheong Wa Dae functions as the control tower in times of national crisis.
Former President Park Geun-hye's chief of staff Kim Ki-chun (Yonhap)
All three had denied the charges and insisted on their innocence.
“As the President’s chief of staff the defendant (Kim Ki-chun) must have been fully aware of when the President first received a report on the situation and whether she took appropriate action. Mindful of the criticism (he) will receive, however, he tried to conceal that the president was not fully updated saying the President had received 11 reports (on the accident),” the ruling said.
“There are significant doubts as to whether the President constantly received updates and had fully grasped the situation,” it added.
According to the ruling, Kim Ki-chun evaded responsibility on behalf of Cheong Wa Dae at a time of national disaster and “deceived” the public in his handling of the Sewol sinking.
The court dismissed the charges against Kim Jang-soo, citing a lack of evidence and explaining that he was not a public servant, making it difficult to find him guilty of falsifying public documents.
As for Kim Kwan-jin, the court acknowledged his involvement in altering the president’s instructions, but dismissed the charges for lack of evidence that he conspired with junior employees.
By Kim Bo-gyung (firstname.lastname@example.org