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Seocho chief election was meddled with by cops: LKP

Dec 11,2019
The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) has accused the police of meddling in last year’s election for the chief of the Seocho District Office in southern Seoul, saying the case mirrored the police’s alleged meddling in the 2018 Ulsan mayoral election.

One key difference between the two elections, however, both of which were held on June 13, would be that the LKP’s candidate for the Ulsan mayor lost his chance to serve a second term after his rival, a candidate supported by the ruling Democratic Party (DP), won the race.

In the Seocho District Office chief election, the LKP’s candidate won a second consecutive term, beating her opponent from the DP.

Nevertheless, the LKP claimed Monday that the police interfered in the Seocho election just as it did in the Ulsan election, and in trying to prove so, revealed to the JoongAng Ilbo a document from prosecutors from late last year that explained why they decided to clear Seocho District Chief Cho Eun-hee of her charges - after police recommended they indict her on allegations of violating the election law by illegally providing goods to voters.

The LKP raised suspicions the Blue House was behind the police investigation - like in the Ulsan mayoral election case - because the senior police officer who led the probe into Cho last year, Kim Byeong-ki, the former head of the Bangbae Police Precinct, was dispatched to work at the Blue House after the Seocho election.

Police adamantly denied any wrongdoing and said the investigation was carried out fairly.

According to the prosecution’s document shown by LKP Rep. Kwak Sang-do to the JoongAng Ilbo Monday, Cho held a meeting on Dec. 19, 2017, with members of a residents’ association representing Seocho, where she was serving as the district chief. About 25 people were present in total, though exactly how many were members of the association and how many were from the Seocho District Office was not immediately known.

Cho paid 29,000 won ($24) per person for lunch and also gave a scarf worth 18,000 won to 20 residents who were at the meeting, all of which were paid for using funds from the district.

Police caught wind of the case and opened an investigation shortly after the meeting, summoning district officials and residents from January to June last year. During this period, the police also asked for documents explaining the meeting, the results, and the district budget used for the event.

During the police probe, Kim, head of the Bangbae Police Precinct who orchestrated the investigation, was dispatched to the Blue House in August 2018. In October last year, the police referred the case to prosecutors asking for Cho to be indicted.

But two months later, prosecutors dropped the charges, saying the lunch and scarves could not be considered a violation of the election law because Cho was performing her job as a district chief.

BY HYUN IL-HOON, LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]