Gov’t power centers investigated 166 individuals

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Gov’t power centers investigated 166 individuals

A government source told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday that the Blue House, the Prime Minister’s Office and the National Intelligence Service have referred 166 cases to the police over the last four and a half years to investigate people, including civilians.

The disclosure came after an illegal investigation of a civilian by public ethics officials at the Prime Minister’s Office developed into a power abuse scandal. The investigation was ordered by President Lee Myung-bak’s acquaintances.

The source said 88 of the cases referred to the police were made in 2006 and 2007 under the Roh Moo-hyun administration, with the other 78 under the Lee Myung-bak administration until last month.

“The cases referred to the police for investigation involve public servants or employees of public organizations suspected of corruption,” the source said. “Some of them involve civilians.”

The source said, however, no illegal surveillance by government agencies of civilians was performed in those 166 cases, except the illegal surveillance of businessman Kim Jong-ik by the Prime Minister’s Office in 2008. The prosecution is investigating the Kim Jong-ik case.

The government says the other 165 references are not abuses of power.

“When they receive a tip about an illegality by a public servant, requesting the police to investigate it is normal procedure,” said a government official, requesting anonymity. “The illegal surveillance on Kim Jong-ik appears to be an exception.”

Kim, a supporter of the liberal Roh administration, claimed he was illegally investigated after posting a video clip critical of the Lee administration from the Internet onto his blog in 2008. He said the investigation lost him his job and ruined his life.

In an expanding investigation into the Kim Jong-ik case, the prosecution yesterday confirmed that staffers of the Prime Minister’s Office’s public ethics division had used professional methods to erase evidence of the illegal surveillance on computers prior to a raid last Friday. Prosecutors may charge them with abuse of state power, obstruction of business, coercion and destruction of evidence.

By Kang In-sik, Moon Gwang-lip []
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