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Gov. Kim maintains innocence at arrest hearing

Aug 18,2018
South Gyeongsang Gov. Kim Kyoung-soo maintained his innocence during an arrest warrant hearing on Friday over his alleged involvement in a political influence campaign during last year’s presidential election.

Kim Kyoung-soo’s hearing took place at the Seoul Central District Court on Friday morning after an independent counsel investigating the case sought his arrest on charges of obstructing the business of Naver, the social media site that was targeted by the influence campaign.

The governor is accused of collaborating with a power blogger, Kim Dong-won, to mount a manipulation campaign on Naver to generate support for President Moon Jae-in during last year’s elections.

The blogger and his associates posted comments to news articles that were favorable toward Moon and used software to artificially inflate the number of “likes” on those comments. At the time, Kim Kyoung-soo was a key aide to Moon, and prosecutors believe he may have promised favors to the group in return for their help.

At the opening of Friday’s hearing, the special counsel’s lawyers insisted that Kim Kyoung-soo’s attempts to rig public opinion as a lawmaker during last year’s presidential election constitutes a crime against democracy.

Kim Kyoung-soo and his lawyers repeated their earlier defense that he had consulted Kim Dong-won and his associates for political advice but denied knowing about their influence campaign or offering any favors.

A source from the special counsel provided evidence to the press on Thursday that showed Kim Kyoung-soo was present at a meeting on Nov. 9, 2016, where Kim Dong-won and his crew allegedly showed him their methods for manipulating social media sites. Proof of the governor’s attendance has been central to the counsel’s argument that he tacitly approved the campaign.

Computer logs showed that the “like” button to certain comments had been clicked numerous times through a number of different IDs belonging to the group’s members that night, the source said.

The court’s decision has political ramifications. If it does issue a warrant, a key ally of the Moon administration and one of the ruling Democratic Party’s most prominent figures will be in jail.

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