DP rep says Blue House spied on Park Geun-hye

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DP rep says Blue House spied on Park Geun-hye

A Democratic Party lawmaker claimed yesterday that the administration’s illegal spying on its critics - an abuse of power scandal that has led to jail sentences for four officials - was also directed at political heavyweights such as former Grand National Party Chairwoman Park Geun-hye.

Representative Lee Seok-hyun of the Democratic Party made the allegation at a party meeting yesterday morning. The lawmaker claimed that he had received a tip that Lee Chang-hwa, a Blue House official, had been in charge of an illegal surveillance operation against Park in 2008.

“She became the target of the operation because she had dined with C& Group Chairman Lim Byung-seok at a Japanese restaurant run by Lim’s elder sister,” Lee said.

The allegation involves key figures in a complex web of political scandals that have broken out this year. The public ethics bureau of the Prime Minister’s Office, which is only supposed to investigate civil servants, was already found to have illegally spied on a businessman who was critical of the Lee administration, allegedly at the behest of the Blue House. C& Group’s Lim was indicted last month on charges of embezzlement and breach of trust as part of a probe into an influence-peddling scandal involving politicians and financial officials.

Former Grand National Party Chairwoman Park leads a faction of the ruling party that rivals President Lee’s faction, and she is considered a leading GNP candidate for the presidential election in 2012. She is the daughter of former dictator Park Chung Hee.

According to the Democratic Party’s Lee, presidential aide Lee conducted the illegal surveillance operation under orders from Park Young-joon, who was senior presidential secretary for planning and coordination at the time. Park served the Blue House from February to June 2008. Park has also been named as a key figure in the abuse of power scandal involving the Prime Minister’s Office. After he left the Blue House, Park worked in the Prime Minister’s Office from January 2009 to August 2010. He is currently vice minister of the Ministry of Knowledge Economy.

Representative Lee claimed that Park Geun-hye was taken to the restaurant in question by GNP Representative Lee Sung-hun. The surveillance team of Lee Chang-hwa, who was a National Intelligence Service official before joining the Blue House, looked into the nature of the meeting, he said.

Park said yesterday that she didn’t recall the alleged meeting with C& Group’s Lim. Asked if she had met Lim, Park asked, “Who is he?” adding, “I don’t remember anything.”

Representative Lee Sung-hun, who allegedly arranged the meeting between Park and Lim, said yesterday that he and Park, along with other Grand National members, visited the restaurant in September 2007. “I didn’t not know we had become the subjects of illegal surveillance, but it is my personal belief that our moves were being closely watched,” he said.

He also denied that Park had met with Lim. “We went to the restaurant after the GNP presidential primary ended in 2007,” Lee said. “But we did not meet Lim at the time. Because Lim and I are from the same hometown, we knew each other, but what’s clear here is that Park did not meet Lim.”

While the Grand Nationals denied the account, DP lawmaker Lee Seok-hyun additionally claimed that the administration had illegally spied on other key figures, including senior DP politician Kim Keun-tae and Lee Chul, former Korail president. The lawmaker said the allegations were based on a pocket diary of a former public ethics bureau official at the Prime Minister’s Office. “The diary detailed the operations dating back to July 2008,” he said.

By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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