+ A

Paper trail now includes 1,361 documents

July 18,2017
More paper trails involving “unlawful orders” by top aides of the former President Park Geun-hye over some of the most controversial events of the administration - the 2015 agreement with Japan to settle the comfort women issue and the 2014 sinking of the Sewol ferry - were discovered in a locked cabinet inside the presidential secretariat building, the Blue House said Monday.

Park Soo-hyun, spokesman for President Moon Jae-in, said a total of 1,361 documents were found in the office of the senior secretary for political affairs.

The discovery was made while the Blue House was combing through cabinets and desks used by presidential aides to find any more documents left behind by the previous administrations, following its initial finding announced on Friday.

According to Park, staffers of the senior secretary for political affairs searched unused cabinets after he announced the initial finding of 300 documents earlier on Friday.

Park said the Blue House is currently sorting through the documents and that it is the principle of the Moon Blue House to make an announcement whenever additional findings are made from now on.

Among the 1,361 documents are 254 reports on the senior secretariat meetings hosted by the then presidential chief of staff from March 2, 2015, to Nov. 1, 2016.

The reports were created by the planning secretary of the Park administration’s senior secretary for policy coordination.

During that time, Lee Byung-kee and Lee Won-jong served as Park’s chiefs of staff.

“We have so far analyzed the 254 documents and are looking into the rest,” Park said. “The 254 documents are orders issued by the chief of staff to senior secretaries.”

“Some of these regard Samsung, a blacklist of artists and the use of media to resolve pending issues,” Park said. “Unlawful orders concerning the comfort women agreement, Sewol ferry, reintroduction of state-penned text books and election were also included.”

Park said the Blue House will hand over copies of the concerned documents to an independent counsel team that investigated the abuse of power and bribery scandal of the former president, her confidantes and conglomerates. “The original documents will be sent to the presidential archive,” he said.

The Blue House already offered copies of the documents it found earlier this month to the independent counsel on Friday. The team then handed them to the prosecution and an official probe started on Monday.

Special investigation unit 1 of the Seoul Central Prosecutors Office is in charge of the probe. The unit, which investigated the former presidential scandal, is currently participating in the trial of the former president. The independent counsel team, which also conducted a separate probe, is acting as prosecutors in the trials of Choi Soon-sil and Samsung scion Lee Jae-yong.

Among the documents is a report on the National Pension Service, discussing the Park Blue House’s plan to support a generational shift of power for Lee.

The independent counsel handed them over to the prosecution because it has no investigative power as of now. The prosecution is expected to examine the evidentiary powers of the documents. The authors of the reports and other details, such as when and why they were created, will also be investigated.

The prosecution also needs to investigate whether the documents were collected through legal means. After the investigation, the independent counsel and prosecution are expected to use the documents in their trials and ongoing investigation.

Speculation also arose as to whether the prosecution may launch an additional investigation into Woo Byung-woo, former senior civil affairs secretary for Park.

The ruling Democratic Party demanded Monday an additional investigation into Woo, as the documents were dated when he was serving as civil affairs secretary and were found inside a cabinet once used by his office.

Woo, however, said he has no knowledge of the documents. On his way to his own trial on Monday morning, Woo faced reporters and responded to their questions about the latest development. “I have seen media reports but I have no idea what this situation is and what the contents are,” he said.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]