More civilian surveillance unearthed

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More civilian surveillance unearthed

More documents indicating illegal surveillance on civilians by the Prime Minister’s Office have been discovered, according to the prosecution, involving dozens of people, including the CEOs of large companies.

Some of the documents even contained how alleged illegal behavior of the subjects of the surveillance could be used against them politically, making it likely that the prosecution will expand its ongoing investigation into the surveillance scandal.

Sources within the political circle and the prosecution told the JoongAng Ilbo on Sunday that the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office discovered numerous documents dating back to 2008 from a USB flash drive seized at the residence of Kim Gyeong-dong, a former official of the Prime Minister’s Office.

The documents contained the results of the surveillance on a former chairman of KT&G, Korea’s largest tobacco maker, a former chairman of the Korea Specialty Contractors Association, a chairman of local cable network CMB, and a former president of the Gyeonggi Urban Innovation Corporation, as well as heads of several municipal governments.

The documents contained alleged illegalities by the subjects and suggestions of how to use those “weak points” against them.

One document read, “He is suspected of diverting funds from his company to an influential figure in the ruling party and we need to make use of it in the future.”

The public ethics division at the Prime Minister’s Office has the right to conduct surveillance on government officials to uncover possible illegal behavior, but is not allowed to conduct surveillance on private figures.

The prosecution has also seized documents from the Prime Minister’s Office that seemed to contain surveillance of dozens of figures who appear to be working in the private sector.

The prosecution is planning to summon Park Young-joon, former Knowledge Economy Minister, who is suspected of having led illegal surveillance on civilians when he was working as a senior official at the Prime Minister’s Office, and investigate whether he was involved in the case to determine the targets of the illegal surveillance.

One document the prosecution has secured during the confiscation of the offices used by the officials of the Prime Minister’s Office contained the words “a report to Vice Minister Park.”

The illegal surveillance scandal came to the surface when Kim Jong-ik, a local businessman supportive of former President Roh Moo-hyun, claimed in July 2010 the government conducted illegal surveillance on him two years earlier after he posted a video clip on the Internet lampooning President Lee Myung-bak.

The prosecution investigation expanded, raising suspicion that the alleged surveillance on Kim and others was part of large-scale influence peddling by the so-called Yeongpo Line, or those from Pohang in North Gyeongsang, President Lee’s hometown, and neighboring Yeongil, as well as further possible involvement of the Blue House in the illegal surveillance.

Yesterday, the Seoul Central District Court started its hearing on three government figures indicted for their alleged involvement in destroying evidence of illegal surveillance on Kim, including Lee Young-ho, former senior secretary to the president for employment and labor, Choi Jong-seok, a former administrative officer in the same office as Lee, and Jang Jin-su, a former official of the public ethics office of the Prime Minister’s Office.

By Park Jin-suk, Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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