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Blue House made report on ex-mayor of Ulsan

Nov 29,2019
Prosecutors are said to have recently collected testimony that indicates President Moon Jae-in’s former secretary for civil affairs compiled a report accusing the aides of Ulsan’s former mayor of misconduct - and passed the report to the police, pressuring officers to investigate them three months before the mayor tried to run for a second term last year.

Former Ulsan Mayor Kim Gi-hyeon, who was nominated by the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) in March 2018 to serve four more years, lost to Song Cheol-ho, the ruling Democratic Party’s candidate, who’s known to have close ties with Moon.

Sources from political and legal circles who exclusively spoke with the JoongAng Ilbo Thursday on the condition of anonymity said that Park Hyoung-chul, Moon’s secretary for anticorruption, met with an investigator from Ulsan’s prosecution about two weeks ago and testified that Moon’s former secretary for civil affairs, Baek Won-woo, compiled the report on Kim’s aides.

Park said Baek handed the report to him, though it remains unclear exactly how Park handled the information. Park is known to have recently submitted a letter of resignation to the Blue House.

Prosecutors believe Baek’s sources were construction workers and police officers in Ulsan. The report was eventually passed on from the Blue House to the Korean National Police Agency in October 2017 and then to the Ulsan Metropolitan Police Agency in December 2017. Ulsan police launched an investigation into the allegations in March 2018, three months before the Ulsan mayoral election.

In a statement Thursday, Baek vaguely said he “can’t specially remember” giving the report to Park because he used to receive so many tip-offs everyday at the Blue House, adding, “If I did hand it over to the office of the anticorruption secretary, it might not be the only one I handed over.”

Baek said it was part of his day-to-day work to pass on tip-offs to other offices of Blue House secretaries, stressing that the Ulsan mayor’s case “wasn’t even something worth reporting to the senior secretary for civil affairs,” alluding that scandal-plagued Cho Kuk had nothing to do with it.

Cho was the presidential senior secretary for civil affairs from May 2017 to July this year.

Baek stressed it was a “unique feature” of the Blue House civil affairs office to pass on information to investigative authorities, which has been a “decades-old” practice.

Recent news reports accusing the Blue House of meddling in the Ulsan mayoral election first emerged Tuesday when Ulsan prosecutors said they handed the case over to the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office after spending nearly a year questioning witnesses.

Ulsan prosecutors said the case was referred to Seoul prosecutors because “most people” related to it were in Seoul.

Seoul prosecutors said they were reviewing the documents they received from their counterparts in Ulsan.

In March 2018, Ulsan police launched a probe into Kim’s younger sibling and Kim’s chief secretary on allegations they interfered in public construction deals. The police referred the cases to Ulsan prosecutors on May 11, just a month before the June 13 local elections.

In March this year, Ulsan prosecutors cleared them of their charges and criticized Ulsan police for “causing controversy” by failing to keep with political neutrality and abusing their investigative authority.

The LKP filed a complaint against Ulsan’s police chief who supervised the investigation, who’s now the police chief of Daejeon, Hwang Un-ha, accusing him of abusing his official authority and violating the Public Official Election Law.

Hwang denied receiving any orders from the Blue House. Hwang has applied for early retirement in order to run in next year’s general election for a seat in the National Assembly, representing Daejeon.

BY KIM MIN-SANG, LEE SUNG-EUN AND PARK TAE-IN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]