By-election cyberattack probe to be expanded

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By-election cyberattack probe to be expanded

Rejecting the police conclusion that a GNP lawmaker’s chauffeur was the sole mastermind of a cyberattack that paralyzed the National Election Commission Web site during the Oct. 26 Seoul mayoral by-election, a prosecution investigation has found that more people are linked to the case - possibly aides to upper-echelon politicians.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office’s special investigative team applied Tuesday for a pretrial detention warrant for a 30-year-old aide to National Assembly Speaker Park Hee-tae. The aide, only identified as Kim, was accused of plotting the cyberattack with Representative Choi Ku-sik’s chauffeur at a meeting at a room salon, or hostess bar, in southern Seoul on the eve of the by-elections.

Choi’s driver, identified as Gong, was detained after the police identified him as the alleged mastermind of the attacked in its probe.

The prosecution’s move to detain Kim and investigate him further overturned the police’s conclusion that Gong had acted alone in planning the cyberattack. Gong asked a friend to hire hackers to carry out the attack, the police said when it announced the probe outcome on Dec. 9.

Sources at the prosecution said testimony by Gong and other witnesses and Kim’s phone records showed that Kim was deeply involved in the attack. Until now, Kim has denied that he was a part of the crime, claiming that he had actually tried to dissuade Gong.

It was revealed later, however, that Kim had paid 100 million won ($86,500) to Gong and his accomplice, and that Gong and Kim had telephone communications right after the cyberattack. The police admitted they failed to disclose the payments because they viewed them as financial transactions between friends.

The revelation of the payments, however, fueled speculation that the probe was handled poorly or the police were pressured by political bigwigs to keep the information from the public.

The prosecution said it will file indictments against about five people including Gong this week, while continuing its investigation into the involvement of other suspects.

The prosecution said it will focus its investigation on allegations that the cyberattack was systemically orchestrated by the Blue House, the office of the National Assembly speaker and the Grand National Party. A Blue House aide and Representative Choi’s brother-in-law, who were also at the Oct. 25 room salon party with Gong and Kim, were already questioned by the prosecution.

As the prosecution’s probe expanded, the GNP, currently trying to remake itself to regain lost public support, pledged its full cooperation in an attempt at damage control.

“We want the prosecution to make a thorough investigation to resolve the people’s doubts completely,” the GNP’s new spokesman, Representative Hwang Young-cheul, said yesterday. “The GNP will actively cooperate with the prosecutors to investigate not just the tail but the head of the scandal.”

Hwang also said Representative Choi was asked by the party’s new emergency leadership to leave the party on Tuesday, and the request was formally delivered to Choi yesterday through the party’s ethics committee. “Representative Choi said he fully understood the party’s intention, and he will officially make public his position today or tomorrow,” Hwang said.

The emergency council also decided Tuesday to create an in-house committee to support the prosecution’s probe. Lee Jun-seok, a 26-year-old businessman who is on the party’s emergency leadership council under Park Geun-hye, will head the committee.

Hwang told CBS radio yesterday morning that the committee will not hesitate to file petitions to investigate party members if the committee finds additional suspects linked to the scandal.

By Ser Myo-ja []
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