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Prosecutors zero in on top Moon aides over alleged blacklisting of public officials

Cho Kuk, who served as Justice Minister for former President Moon Jae-in, heads to the court on July 8. (Yonhap)
Cho Kuk, who served as Justice Minister for former President Moon Jae-in, heads to the court on July 8. (Yonhap)

Prosecutors are launching an investigation into Cho Kuk and Im Jong-seok, both of whom served top roles at former President Moon Jae-in’s Cheong Wa Dae, over allegations that they blacklisted high-ranking public officials appointed during the Park Geun-hye administration.

The Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office has recently tapped its criminal department to handle the investigation into two ex-Cheong Wa Dae officials, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The then-opposition People Power Party was first to raise allegations that in 2017-18, Cho and Im abused their positions at Cheong Wa Dae to pressure some public officials who worked with the Park administration to resign. At the time, Im was Cheong Wa Dae’s chief of staff and Cho, the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs.

On April 22, the then-opposition People Power Party, on April 22, reported Cho and Im -- alongside several others from the Moon administration -- to the prosecution, accusing them of playing a role in the alleged blacklisting of public officials.

Aside from Cho and Im, the People Power Party reported another Cheong Wa Dae official and four of Moon’s ministers including Kang Kyung-wha, who was a foreign minister for about four years until 2021.

In the two months since Moon left the presidency, several investigations have been opened into his administration.

The Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office is steering investigations into some of the more high-profile cases that took place during the last administration, including the 2020 shooting murder of a Fisheries Ministry worker named Lee Dae-jun by North Korea and the 2019 forced repatriation of two North Korean fishers.

Prosecutors at the Seoul central office are looking into a report filed by the National Intelligence Service last week that Park Jie-won, then director of the spy agency, destroyed records related to the killing of the fisheries ministry worker. The case has since been assigned to the office’s public security department.

Suh Hoon, director of the NIS before Park, is also being investigated by the public security department for allegedly dropping the investigation into the two North Korean fishers who were returned to North Korea despite having expressed their intentions to defect.

By Kim Arin (arin@heraldcorp.com)
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