Chae goes after enemy, then relentsThe Chae Dong-wook love child controversy took a surprising twist yesterday after the prosecutor-general ordered one of his own to be investigated for possibly spying on him - and then retracted the order a few hours later.
Around 11:20 a.m. yesterday, sources at the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office said that Prosecutor-General Chae ordered the Inspection Headquarters of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office to start a probe into Kim Kwang-soo, chief of the No. 2 Division of Public Security of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, whom he suspected of spying on him at the behest of the Blue House.
Sources added that the probe would look into the history of phone calls between Kim and the Blue House’s civil affairs office.
At 2:30 p.m., the 54-year-old Chae confirmed the information via a text message he sent to a JoongAng Ilbo reporter that read, “Please consider today’s measure as a preparation stage [for investigating Kim].”
But at 3:30 p.m., Koo Bon-seon, spokesman of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, held a press briefing denying Chae’s order to probe Kim.
Chae confirmed Koo’s statement in a follow-up SMS to the JoongAng Ilbo reporter. “Koo’s statement is from me,” Chae wrote in the text.
Chae has been at the center of a political storm since the Chosun Ilbo reported on Sept. 6 that he has a 10-year-old son from an extramarital affair in July 2002.
Reportedly, the Blue House was angry with him for his investigation into charges that the National Intelligence Service(NIS) conducted an online smear campaign against the failed opposition candidate in last year’s presidential election, President Park Geun-hye’s opponent. There were rumors that some officials in the administration wanted the prosecution chief to be replaced.
When the report on the love child was printed, Chae denied having an illegitimate son and threatened legal action against the Chosun Ilbo.
Chae tendered his resignation Friday, but the Blue House said Sunday it decided not to accept it until it knew the truth about Chae’s alleged love child.
The Ministry of Justice confirmed yesterday that its Inspection Bureau has started looking into the love child allegation.
Yesterday’s drama was kicked off by Park Jie-won, former floor leader of the Democratic Party (DP) and a member of the Legislation and Judiciary Committee of the National Assembly.
At a meeting of the committee yesterday, Park said that Kwak Sang-do, former senior secretary of the Blue House’s office of civil affairs, had spied on Chae using the National Intelligence Service and then handed over the intelligence collected to Lee Joong-hee, an official in the civil affairs office.
After Kwak was dismissed in early August, the civil affairs office started digging harder on Chae for a month and Kim Kwang-soo cooperated, Park alleged.
“I heard from sources that Lee Joong-hee told Kim Kwang-soo that Chae will be dismissed soon,” Park Jie-won was quoted as saying in the committee meeting.
“People in the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office heard Kim speaking on the phone with Lee several times on Sept. 5, a day before the Chosun reported its first story about Chae.”
The office of civil affairs is currently led by Senior Secretary Hong Kyung-shik.
He and presidential chief of staff, Kim Ki-choon, are said to have been outraged at Chae’s investigation of the NIS’s alleged smear campaign during last year’s election.
Political analysts and the media think Chae was trying to strike back yesterday at both the Blue House and the Ministry of Justice.
“I think Chae felt he was insulted by the Blue House because they said they want to find out whether the rumor is true instead of sending him away quietly,” an official in the prosecution told the JoongAng Ilbo. “The Blue House went too far.”
Sources added that Kim Yun-sang, who tendered his resignation on Saturday as deputy chief of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Inspection Headquarters to protest the justice minister’s order that an outside investigator be named to investigate Chae, appeared in the office in the afternoon and volunteered to investigate Kim.
The target of Chae’s anger, Kim Kwang-soo, reacted with puzzlement and annoyance yesterday.
“This is ridiculous,” Kim Kwang-soo told reporters. “I can’t understand why the chief was influenced by unverified information produced by the Democratic Party.”
BY LEE DONG-HYUN AND KWON SANG-SOO [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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