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Suspicious denial

Nov 30,2019
Baek Won-woo, a deputy at a think tank of the ruling Democratic Party who served as the presidential secretary for civil affairs, issued a statement to correct “rampant speculation.” He refuted the allegation that he was first to tip off the police to look into former Ulsan Mayor Kim Gi-hyeon ahead of his second bid in local elections last year.

“There have been too many anonymous tips that I cannot clearly remember whether I had handed over some about the former Ulsan mayor to the anti-corruption secretary,” he said. “It is a part of the job to categorize the information and hand over suspicious ones that require closer study to law enforcement offices.” Instead of “making stories up,” everything would be clear if the police release the original document they had received from the Blue House on the former mayor. He suspected “political design” for suddenly transferring a year-old case to the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office after the investigation of former Justice Minister Cho Kuk blew over.

What he claims is in fact overblown. He had been in Cho’s inner circle. The tip about the conservative mayor referred to the police inevitably would have swayed the election result as the mayoral seat eventually went to ruling party candidate Song Cheol-ho, who had been backed openly by Cho and befriended President Moon Jae-in for over 30 years.

An aide of the former mayor came under investigation after Kim won the candidacy from the Liberty Korea Party in March, ahead of the June election. The case was closed upon finding the aide innocent. But the suspicion about the political connection with a close confidante of the president is reasonable. His claim about “political design” only raises suspicion that he may be trying to protect someone else.

A former Ulsan prosecution chief who had investigated the case admitted that his office took up the probe to win Cho’s “favor.” He was then the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs. The office wrote up a 95-page report to explain why it had found no illegality in the case. If the Blue House exerted influence to help a certain candidate win an election, it has seriously undermined state order. The prosecution must get to the bottom of the case.