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Police expanding opinion rigging probe to pre-presidential election period

Police said Wednesday they are expanding the probe into the alleged massive rigging of Internet comments by a power blogger with ties to the ruling Democratic Party to find out if the scheme was carried out before and after last year's presidential election to influence public opinion.

The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said they have carried out a search warrant against top Internet portal Naver to obtain 614 IDs used to deliberately jack up the number of online comments critical of President Moon Jae-in in news articles on Naver websites in January.

A 48-year-old blogger surnamed Kim, better known by his nickname "Druking", has been charged along with two other suspects for masterminding the illegal online opinion rigging.

(FreeQration)
(FreeQration)

The incident has sparked a fierce political dispute ahead of the June 13 local elections, as DP lawmaker Kim Kyoung-soo, a close aide to the president, is implicated in the case. Opposition parties have submitted bills calling for an independent counsel to investigate the scandal.

Police said Wednesday they will cross-check the IDs with access logs from the periods before and after the May 9 presidential election to see if any of them were used in the potentially artificial spike of clicks.

Police have raided a local publishing company run by Druking as part of the probe into the sprawling political scandal. They said earlier they are tracking down the sources of the funds that were used to cover the cost of the massive opinion rigging.

Kim, once an ardent supporter of Moon, faces suspicion that he turned hostile against the government after the lawmaker refused his request to appoint his acquaintance to a consul-general position.

Police said later in the day they have booked an aide of the lawmaker, surnamed Han, as a suspect on the possible charge of violating anti-graft law, and plan to question him on Monday. He is suspected of receiving 5 million won ($4,640) from one of Druking's associates last year and returning the money after Kim was arrested. (Yonhap)
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