Yeongpo prosecutors find link to Blue House

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Yeongpo prosecutors find link to Blue House

Prosecutors investigating an illegal surveillance and abuse of power scandal said they have pinpointed a senior official at the Prime Minister’s Office who masterminded the secret investigations, the JoongAng Ilbo learned, and he once worked in the Blue House.

The prosecution said Jin Gyeong-rak led the “Yeongpo-gate” illegal surveillance investigations conducted by the Prime Minister’s Office’s public ethics officers. Prosecutors found Jin previously worked as an administrative officer under Lee Young-ho, the presidential secretary for employment and labor affairs, before he moved to the ethics bureau.

Investigators are now looking into the possibility that Lee intentionally sent his subordinate to the Prime Minister’s Office as his communication channel.

They are investigating whether Jin directly reported details about the investigation to Lee.

“Jin was initially summoned as a witness, but the prosecution is now investigating him after speculations on Jin’s actual role in the bureau were raised while questioning him,” a prosecutor said.

The prosecution plans to summon Lee after examining phone records and e-mail messages between Jin and Lee.

Multiple sources at the ethics bureau told the JoongAng Ilbo that Jin was an influential figure in the bureau because “he was backed by Lee.”

“Jin’s role on the surface was administrative affairs concerning the ethics bureau, but he actually ordered investigations by ethics officers,” a source at the bureau said. “He even got updates on investigations from officers.”

Another ethics officer said Jin created reports separate from the reports for the Prime Minister’s Office and he and his colleagues believed they were for the Blue House.

JoongAng Ilbo tried to reach Jin for comments, but he was unavailable.

This represents a turning point in a widening abuse of power scandal in which top government officials close to President Lee Myung-bak are accused of using their offices to harass political opponents. The scandal is dubbed Yeongpo-gate because many of the government officials belong to a group of people from Yeongil and Pohang areas called the Yeongpo club. (Yeongpo is an abbreviated acronym of the two areas.) The president comes from Pohang.

By Kim Mi-ju, Hong Hye-jin []
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