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Prosecution says data on Choi’s tablet is reliable

LKP has challenged veracity of information and evidential power
Oct 25,2017
While Liberty Korea Party lawmakers challenged the reliability of a tablet PC, allegedly owned by former President Park Geun-hye’s longtime friend, Choi Soon-sil, and a key piece of evidence that exposed Park’s abuse of power and corruption scandal last year, the prosecution said Monday it saw no problem in its evidentiary power.

JTBC said its reporter discovered the tablet on Oct. 18, 2016, at an abandoned office once used by Choi. The TV network started broadcasting a series of exclusive reports based on information it contained since Oct. 24, 2016, fueling the scandal that led to Park’s impeachment.

While Choi denied having owned it, JTBC handed it over to the prosecution, and after forensic investigations, the prosecutors confirmed that she was the owner. The tablet was used as a crucial piece of evidence to indict her for having illegal access to top-secret government documents.

While the trials of Choi, Park and their associates are still ongoing, Rep. Kim Jin-tae of the LKP questioned the prosecution on Monday about the veracity of the tablet’s contents.

“The tablet contained 272 documents and 53 percent of them were created by JTBC and the prosecution,” Kim said. “One hundred and forty eight documents were created within four days of Oct. 22, 2016. What happened?”

Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office Chief Yoon Seok-youl responded that the files were automatically produced. He also said Park’s former secretary, Jeong Ho-seong, admitted to its evidentiary power when it was submitted in his trial. Jeong, a longtime associate of Park, was indicted on charges of offering confidential information to Choi.

Yoon also told Kim that the tablet was submitted as evidence in the trial of Choi and Park and that the court accepted it as evidence.

Another LKP lawmaker, Yoon Sang-jick, asked why the prosecution did not hand the tablet over to the court as evidence. Yoon Seok-youl responded that forensic data are submitted as evidence, but not the device itself.

The prosecution submitted the forensic report to Park’s trial on Oct. 18 to substantiate Jeong’s testimony. “Jeong also confirmed in court that it was Choi’s,” Yoon said.

The Digital Forensic Center of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office created the report, dated Oct. 25, 2016, after it obtained the device from JTBC. The 698-page report has no interpretation or explanation. It simply lists data contained in the tablet and relevant information such as dates of file creation, revision and final access.

Among the files listed in the report are the international mobile phone roaming service messages and the Foreign Ministry’s call center information messages, indicating the tablet user’s arrivals in Germany on Jan. 15, 2012, and July 29, 2013. The dates match Choi’s travel history.

It contained 1,876 photos. Some are photos downloaded from an email on July 31, 2013, featuring Park’s summer vacation to Jeo Island. They included some photos that were never released to the media.

Only 17 photos were taken directly with its camera, and the report showed that they were all taken on June 25, 2012. They are photos of Choi’s birthday party, and three of them are photos of Choi’s nephew.

Over the past year, rumors continued about the reliability of the tablet. The latest challenge was made earlier this month, when Shin Hye-won, a former member of Park’s 2012 presidential campaign, claimed that she was the user.

In a press conference on Oct. 8, Shin said she used it during Park’s presidential campaign and demanded an independent counsel investigation into the tablet’s data.

Citing Shin’s claim, Justice Party Rep. Roh Hoe-chan asked Yoon to explain its ownership.

“We concluded that it belongs to Choi,” Yoon said, “because Jeong and Choi exchanged mobile phone text messages, in which he said he sent files and Choi responded that she received them. During their exchanges, documents were attached to emails and sent to the tablet PC.”

Yoon also said the GPS locations stored in the tablet also matched Choi’s travels. JTBC had been accused of stealing the tablet, but the prosecution cleared the charge. Yoon said, “A manager of the building [where it was found] testified that he had given permission to the reporter to take it.”

BY YU GIL-YONG, SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]