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Ex-minister, Blue House official hit with charges

Apr 26,2019
Seoul prosecutors said Thursday they will refer a former environment minister and a former presidential secretary to trial on charges of abusing their power by unlawfully intervening in personnel reshuffles at a state-run corporation.

The Seoul Eastern District Prosecutors’ Office said it will indict former Environment Minister Kim Eun-kyung and Shin Mi-sook, former presidential secretary for balanced personnel affairs, without detention on charges of power abuse and obstruction of business.

Kim and Shin are accused of forcing a standing auditor of the Korea Environment Corporation appointed by the administration of ousted President Park Geun-hye to tender his resignation after the inauguration of the Moon Jae-in administration in May 2017.

As the auditor refused to comply, Kim and Shin allegedly ordered a special inspection into him. After the auditor eventually quit under pressure in February last year, they allegedly sought to appoint a figure friendly to the Moon government as his successor.

Allegations also arose that the Environment Ministry had committed some misconduct in the process of selecting and screening new auditor candidates at the corporation affiliated with the Environment Ministry. In January this year, a man who formerly served in the Roh Moo-hyun Foundation was appointed as a new auditor of the Korea Environment Corporation.

Kim led the Environment Ministry from July 2017 to November 2018. Prosecutors asked for a warrant to arrest Kim last month but a Seoul court rejected the request.

Shin recently offered to resign from her post at the Blue House and Moon accepted her resignation on Thursday.

Prosecutors suspect that Shin summoned a vice environment minister to the Blue House a year or so ago to demand an explanation into the new auditor selection process in an apparent move to exert undue influence.

The investigation into the allegations was launched last December after the main opposition Liberty Korea Party filed a complaint, accusing top presidential aides of unlawfully interfering in personnel reshuffles at the Environment Ministry-affiliated agency.

Yet prosecutors said they have decided not to seek charges against senior presidential secretary for civil affairs Cho Kuk, former presidential chief of staff Im Jong-seok and two other lower-ranking officials - Park Hyoung-chul, a presidential secretary for anti-corruption, and Lee In-geol, former head of a special inspection team in the Blue House.

Yonhap