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Findings tie governor to suspect in Druking case

Aug 01,2018
A special counsel investigating Korea’s own “fake news” scandal obtained smoking gun evidence linking South Gyeongsang Gov. Kim Kyoung-soo to an influential blogger implicated in the case, a local newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Evidence on a USB drive submitted to the special counsel on July 18 demonstrates that Governor Kim, who worked on President Moon Jae-in’s election campaign last year, sought the advice of blogger Kim Dong-won, better known by his online alias Druking, the Dong-A Ilbo reported.

The blogger is accused of masterminding an online campaign to support Moon’s election bid by posting comments on social media favorable toward the president and using software to “like” them.

According to Dong-A Ilbo, the drive contained records of text messages Kim Dong-won exchanged with Kim Kyoung-soo on Jan. 5, 2017, which legal analysts say could be the decisive evidence that prosecutors are looking for to implicate the governor.

The special counsel confirmed that Kim Dong-won had handed over the drive himself to prove that Kim Kyoung-soo had consistently consulted him for information as Moon was creating his policy platform last year. The governor has so far been arguing that the blogger unilaterally contacted him and that there was very little actual exchange between them.

According to transcripts of the exchange revealed by the Dong-A Ilbo, Kim Kyoung-soo asked Kim Dong-won for information he had on the Korean conglomerates known as chaebol because the campaign was working on a chaebol reform plan.

Kim Dong-won answered that he had no report ready at the moment but would prepare an outline by the following day. The two men might have then met in person. The special counsel said it had a text message sent by Kim Dong-won saying he had reserved a table at a restaurant near the National Assembly building. At the time, Kim Kyoung-soo was acting as Moon’s chief spokesman as he was preparing his presidential run later that year.

Not long after the text message exchange, Moon delivered a speech on chaebol reform at the National Assembly on Jan. 10. The special counsel is now looking into whether the contents of the speech were influenced by Kim Dong-won and the extent to which the blogger intervened in the campaign.

Investigators have already obtained testimony from multiple witnesses who say Kim Dong-won and his organization gave Kim Kyoung-soo 1 million won ($892) in October 2016 at a session demonstrating how their opinion manipulation software, called King Crab, worked. The group allegedly used the program to input multiple comments on Naver stories and up-vote ones favorable to Moon.

The group is also accused of engaging in a practice called “split donations,” in which a large sum of money is split into small amounts and donated under different names to bypass campaign finance laws, which forbids donations from a single individual exceeding 20 million won a year.

The group allegedly gave Kim Kyoung-soo 27 million won through this method.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]