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Raid on prosecutors for obstruction of justice

Oct 28,2017
The government raided homes and offices of a top prosecutor and former leaders of the National Intelligence Service Friday on suspicions that they obstructed a special investigation in 2013 into the spy agency’s alleged interference in the 2012 presidential election.

A special investigation team of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office raided homes and offices of seven people including Jang Ho-jung, the current head of the Busan District Prosecutors’ Office.

Jang, 50, was dispatched to head the inspection bureau of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) in 2013. He returned to the prosecution in February 2015 to head the Ansan Branch Office of the Suwon District Prosecutors’ Office. He was named to his current post in Busan in August 2017.

It is the first time in 15 months that an incumbent chief prosecutor became a target of a raid. Jin Kyung-joon was investigated in July 2016 while serving as chief prosecutor for the Korea Immigration Service of the Justice Ministry on a bribery charge involving game developer Nexon.

The prosecution said Jang was a member of an NIS taskforce designed to obstruct the prosecution’s 2013 investigation into the agency’s illegal meddling in the 2012 presidential election. A cyber smear campaign was waged against liberal candidate Moon Jae-in, and he narrowly lost to Park Geun-hye.

After the prosecution launched the probe into the scandal, Nam Jae-joon, the NIS chief named by Park, formed a taskforce to respond to the probe. Yoon Seok-yeol, current head of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, was the head prosecutor of the case at the time.

According to the prosecution, the NIS taskforce had three incumbent prosecutors, including Jang. A prosecutor of the Seoul High Court, who was working as a legal advisor for the NIS in 2013, and another senior prosecutor from the Uijeongbu District Prosecutors’ Office, who was dispatched to the intelligence service, were the other members, and their homes and offices were also raided.

Senior officials of the NIS were also members of the taskforce. Seo Cheon-ho, then-second deputy director of the NIS, and Kim Jin-hong, then-head of the psychological warfare unit, were on the taskforce.

According to the prosecution, the taskforce obstructed the prosecution’s raid in 2013 by directing the investigators to a decoy office saying it was the office of the NIS’s psychological warfare unit, which operated the cyber smear campaign.

The taskforce also forced agents of the psychological warfare unit to give false testimony during the prosecution’s investigation and in the courtroom.

The prosecution already asked a local court to issue a detention warrant for Kim for obstruction of justice. It will also seek warrants to detain other suspects for questioning.

Prosecutor-general Moon Moo-il said it was lamentable that incumbent prosecutors became suspects in a prosecution probe. “I am devastated,” Moon said during a National Assembly’s audit of the prosecution on Friday.

“I believe the past wrongdoings must never be repeated,” he said. “We are having a serious investigation whether the suspects are high-profile or not.”

“We believe the truth will be laid bare through our investigation,” Moon said.

NIS officials who were recently questioned reportedly said the prosecutors who were dispatched to the NIS had led the operation to obstruct the probe.

“Prosecutors are dispatched to the NIS to offer legal advice to conduct lawful investigations and protect human rights because intelligence agents are not lawyers,” Rep. Park Jie-won of the People’s Party, said. “But once the prosecutors entered the tiger’s nest, they became more dangerous tigers.”

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