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Prosecution requests arrest of People’s Party’s Lee Jun-suh

July 10,2017
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People’s Party Rep. Lee Tae-kyu, Interim Chief Park Joo-sun and Rep. Lee Yong-ho, chief policymaker of the party, hold an emergency committee meeting at the party’s headquarters at the National Assembly in western Seoul on Sunday. [YONHAP]
The prosecution requested Sunday a pre-trial arrest warrant for Lee Jun-suh, a former member of the People’s Party leadership accused of spreading false information about President Moon Jae-in’s son during this year’s presidential election.

A phony audio tape, in which a person claims that Moon’s son, Joon-yong, landed a coveted job at the state-run Korea Employment Information Service (KEIS) in late 2006 because his father was senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, surfaced during the presidential election.

The voice on the tape claimed to be Moon Joon-yong’s friend from his time at Parsons School of Design in 2010. It turned out the voice was actually that of the brother of a member of the party, Lee Yu-mi.

Lee Yu-mi, the CEO of a startup company, was reported to have faked the materials because she was under growing pressure from Lee Jun-suh to provide evidence to be used against Moon. Lee Jun-suh denied having colluded with Lee Yu-mi.

“If it turns out that Lee Jun-suh simply conveyed the information fabricated by Lee Yu-mi, then Lee Jun-suh will not be found guilty,” a prosecution official said prior to questioning Lee Jun-suh on Friday.

But after the questioning, the prosecution decided to request a pre-trial arrest warrant on Lee Jun-suh on Sunday for the charge of violating the Public Official Election Act, which many media outlets read as an indication that the prosecution have come across evidence that Lee Jun-suh was more involved in the case than he claimed to be.

Lee Yu-mi has been detained by authorities since last month.

The prosecutors also requested on Sunday an arrest warrant on Lee Yu-mi’s brother for the charge of violating the Public Official Election Act.

“The charge against the 37-year-old brother of Lee Yu-mi is clear andheavy,” said a prosecution official of the Seoul Southern District Prosecutors’ Office.

The court will decide whether to issue arrest warrants on Lee Jun-suh and Lee Yu-mi’s brother on Tuesday.

The People’s Party in its internal investigation had concluded last week that Lee Yu-mi acted alone in creating the phony audio tape.

Lee Yu-mi also allegedly captured shots of a three-way group chat, which she alleged involved herself and two of Joon-yong’s friends from Parsons. One person says in the chat that Joon-yong had talked about a “free pass” that got him into KEIS. It was revealed that Lee Yu-mi typed all three parts in the chat, using three different mobile phones.

“The prosecution will investigate if the People’s Party investigated thoroughly as it should have in following the guideline on investigations into fair election procedures,” said a prosecution official. “If found innocent, we will not press any charges against the party.”

Democratic Party Chairperson Choo Mi-ae in a radio interview on Thursday criticized the People’s Party’s conclusion of its internal investigation.

“The party shunned taking responsibility for the case by concluding that Lee Yu-mi acted alone [to smear Moon’s campaign],” Choo said. “In saying that neither Park Jie-won, former chairman of the People’s Party, nor Ahn Cheol-soo, former presidential candidate of the party, knew about the case, the party has selfishly tried to protect its leaders.”

In a supreme council meeting of the party on Friday, Choo also pointed out that Lee Jun-suh and others involved in the campaign smearing “could be criminally prosecuted for willful negligence.”

In a phone call from Lee Yu-mi to Lee Jun-suh on May 8 obtained by the prosecution, Lee Yu-mi is reported to have said, “It’s scaring me now. Let’s stop this.” The phone call was made three days after the People’s Party, using Lee’s phony tape, questioned whether Moon Joon-yong was employed through a fair process.

In response to Choo’s statement, the People’s Party boycotted the Assembly meetings on Thursday, including one on the supplementary budget. The ongoing extraordinary session of the Assembly ends on July 18.

The party also criticized the prosecution decision on Sunday.

“The prosecution is letting Choo sway their decisions,” said Rep. Son Kum-ju, chief spokesperson of the party in a written statement on Sunday.

“The prosecutors appear to be following a guideline set forward by Choo,” said Park Joo-sun, interim chief of the People’s Party on Sunday.

BY ESTHER CHUNG, KIM JUN-YOUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]