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Ruling party accuses prosecution of ‘ulterior motives’ in Blue House probes

The Democratic Party went on the offensive against the prosecution Thursday, characterizing the investigations into alleged abuse of power by the Blue House as an attempt to resist prosecutorial reform.

The ruling party convened the first meeting of an intra-party committee to call on the prosecution to conduct an unbiased investigation.

The committee’s head Rep. Sul Hoon said, “The prosecution is framing and stirring suspicions” that Cheong Wa Dae ordered an investigation into opposition candidates ahead of regional elections last year.

He also accused the prosecution of “being lenient on (main opposition) Liberty Korea Party lawmakers,” some of whom are due to face investigations over a parliamentary clash in April.

“The Democratic Party will ensure the prosecution reform bills are passed without fail,” he said.

Reporters wait outside Cheong Wa Dae on Wednesday, the day prosecutors raided the presidential office. (Yonhap)
Reporters wait outside Cheong Wa Dae on Wednesday, the day prosecutors raided the presidential office. (Yonhap)

Commenting on Wednesday’s raid of the Blue House, Rep. Lee Sang-min said the prosecution “ambushed Cheong Wa Dae in the manner of a military operation” and “humiliated it by creating commotion.”

Rep. Hong Young-pyo said he suspected “behind-the-scenes collusion between the Liberty Korea Party and the prosecution,” calling the latter “politically motivated.”

The committee said it would meet with the deputy chief of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office and deputy commissioner of the National Police Agency on Friday afternoon to hear both sides on the Cheong Wa Dae raid, pending prosecution reform bills, as well as the Ulsan mayoral election meddling scandal.

“The prosecution and police are giving decidedly contradictory accounts,” Sul said. “If the prosecution is judged to have gone beyond bounds of propriety, a special probe against it will be in order.”

The committee said it would meet with Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl after the joint meeting with the prosecution and police.

The Ulsan Metropolitan Police Agency launched a probe against then-Ulsan Mayor Kim Gi-hyeon last year, just before the June 2018 regional elections, over corruption allegations involving his close associates.

The conservative politician was cleared of all charges in July the same year after he lost his bid for second term in the predominantly right-wing city.

This led to Hwang Un-ha, Ulsan Metropolitan Police Agency chief at the time, being reported for violations of the public official election and anti-graft laws.

Last month, prosecutors began investigating the case after suspicions of Cheong Wa Dae’s involvement arose.

In a surprise development, an investigator who was involved in the ex-Ulsan mayor probe was discovered dead at his house in an apparent suicide on Sunday, just hours before he was due to appear for prosecution questioning.

The dead investigator of Seoul Eastern District Prosecutor’s Office had visited Ulsan police last year, then as an inspector at presidential secretary office of civil affairs.

Both Seoul and Ulsan police have denied allegations of Cheong Wa Dae interventions.

The National Police Agency chief Min Gap-ryong on Monday admitted referring ex-Mayor Kim’s case to Ulsan police last year based on a Cheong Wa Dae tip-off, but explained that the police headquarters receives intelligence from the presidential office on a regular basis.

“This is a routine procedure,” he said.

Ulsan police claimed the probe on Kim’s associates had been initiated as an anti-corruption crackdown, separate from the ongoing elections.

The prosecution on Wednesday conducted a search-and-seizure operation at the Blue House in yet another investigation into possible power abuse. 

The prosecution is investigating whether the Blue House senior secreatary for civil affairs office, then headed by Cho Kuk, had a role in halting a corruption probe against Financial Services Commission director general for financial policy Yoo Jae-soo. Yoo recently resigned as Busan city economic vice mayor following the prosecution investigation.

By Kim Arin (