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Druking faces 7-year sentence

Prosecutors say harsh punishment of blogger will send a message
Dec 27,2018
Prosecutors requested a jail sentence of seven years on Wednesday for a political blogger who allegedly ran a massive online opinion manipulation campaign during last year’s presidential election.

Kim Dong-won, better known by his internet alias Druking, is accused of obstructing the business of Naver, Korea’s largest portal site by using a computer program to post and upvote thousands of comments on social media that supported President Moon Jae-in’s election bid last year.

A special counsel formed to investigate the case asked the Seoul Central District Court for a jail sentence of four years and eight months for Kim, who has been under detention since March, on this charge. They also asked for an additional two years and four months on two separate corruption charges, bringing the total to seven years.

Prosecutors also recommended jail sentences for two lawyers who served crucial roles in Kim’s inner circle as part of the opinion-rigging racket. The prosecution requested a sentence of three years and six months for a suspect surnamed Doh and six months for the other figure, surnamed Yoon.

The prosecution has also asked for sentences ranging from a year and a half to three years for seven other figures close to Kim accused of partaking in the operation.

Doh is particularly notable, as he is suspected of giving around 50 million won ($44,420) to Justice Party Rep. Roh Hoe-chan back in 2016. The accusations led to Roh’s suicide in July this year, which rocked Korean politics and effectively blew the air out of the special counsel’s inquiry into the matter.

Of greater importance, however, was an allegation that Kim Dong-won colluded with South Gyeongsang Gov. Kim Kyoung-soo, one of Moon’s close aides during the presidential election. The special counsel accused Kim Kyoung-soo of giving his approval to the opinion rigging campaign after watching a demonstration of the operation through a computer program.

“Kim Dong-won and his associates attempted to systematically influence [society] for their own political gains,” special counsel prosecutors said on Wednesday. “This is a serious and unacceptable crime that undermines the foundation of democracy and should be punished to prevent the emergence of more Drukings in the future.”

Prosecutors added that Kim Dong-won’s attempts to blame his alleged crimes on his associates and denials of the allegations contributed to their request for harsh punishment.

Kim and his associates, prosecutors said, planned to build an “illegal power group” able to tamper with democracy through their ties to political figures like Gov. Kim Kyoung-soo. Their 99.7 million fake up and down votes for around 1.4 million comments on Naver testifies to the systematic nature of their campaign, prosecutors said. Gov. Kim Kyoung-soo has also been indicted by the special counsel on the same obstruction of business charge faced by Kim Dong-won. He is accused of receiving 5 million won through an aide. The governor’s final hearing is set to take place on Friday.

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