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[Newsmaker] Prosecutor denies report he plotted against prominent liberal figure

Rhyu Si-min (Yonhap)
Rhyu Si-min (Yonhap)

A high-ranking public prosecutor accused of plotting with a journalist to tarnish the reputation of a vocal supporter of President Moon Jae-in denied Wednesday the accusation made against him by MBC.

The terrestrial broadcaster reported Tuesday that a cable network sought to dig up dirt on Rhyu Si-min, using its connections with the prosecution.

Lee Cheol, a major shareholder of biotech company SillaJen who is currently in jail for financial fraud, told MBC that a reporter at Channel A pressured him to provide negative information about Rhyu, who is head of the Roh Moo-hyun Foundation, MBC said.

The Channel A reporter told Lee that prosecutors would give him and his family a hard time if he doesn’t tip them off about Rhyu and others in the ruling bloc related to transactions using undisclosed SillaJen information, Lee wrote in letters to MBC.

The reporter also met with an associate of Lee at the network’s headquarters on March 22, and let him hear part of a recorded telephone conversation in which the above-mentioned prosecutor said Lee would get favorable treatment from the prosecution if he cooperated, MBC said.

The associate confirmed to MBC that it was the voice of the prosecutor, who is the chief of a local prosecutors’ office, and that it felt like the prosecution and Channel A were forcing him to give the names they wanted.

The chief prosecutor denied the MBC report, saying he never had such a conversation with the Channel A reporter.

Lee Cheol was sentenced to 12 years in jail last September for illegally collecting some 700 billion won in investments.

Rhyu had given a congratulatory speech at a SillaJen event, prompting some opposition figures to raise suspicions that he may be related to SillaJen’s irregularities.

Rhyu said on his YouTube channel Alileo on Tuesday that he knew about the prosecution trying to link him with Lee, and that he has nothing to feel guilty about.

Following the MBC report, Channel A said that it ordered the reporter to stop covering the case after finding that Lee asked him to get the prosecution to promise lenient treatment.

“We are looking into whether there were problems in the way (the reporter) dealt with the source,” Channel A said in the closing comments of a news show.

“MBC used a hidden camera to film the meeting of the source who demanded favorable treatment from the prosecution and the Channel A reporter.”

Channel A added that it was questionable why MBC was obsessed with covering something unrelated to the core of the SillaJen case.

By Kim So-hyun (