Official questioned on illegal access to documents

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Official questioned on illegal access to documents

Prosecutors yesterday questioned a 53-year-old Seoul district official on allegations that he illegally accessed the personal profiles of a 54-year-old woman and her 11-year-old son - the alleged paramour and love child of former Prosecutor-General Chae Dong-wook - and leaked that information to a third party.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office summoned Cho Lee-je at 10 a.m. yesterday and questioned him on how he illegally obtained the woman’s family registration documents and what he had done with them.

Cho, director of the administrative assistance team at the Seocho District Office, is suspected of ordering his subordinate to access the woman’s family documents in June. At the time, the prosecution - led by Chae - was aggressively investigating the National Intelligence Service over accusations that it conducted a smear campaign in the 2012 presidential election.

According to the JoongAng Ilbo, it was reported yesterday that Cho did not reveal to prosecutors during questioning the identity of the person who asked him to access the family documents. “We can expand the investigation once we find out who asked Cho to access the personal files,” a prosecutor was quoted as saying.

The questioning followed raids by the prosecution on the Seocho District Office and Cho’s residence. Three months after Cho allegedly accessed documents related to the woman and her son, the conservative Chosun Ilbo reported on the extramarital scandal that implicated Chae, leading to his resignation on Sept.30.

Prosecutors suspect that Cho - a former aide to Won Sei-hoon, the former spy agency chief - accessed the information at the request of the NIS. Cho acknowledged Wednesday that he accessed the records because he was asked to do so by an acquaintance, though he denied that the confidant was an NIS agent or associated with Won. He refused to elaborate further.

Cho is known to be close to Won, who appointed him as his administrative secretary when he was the public administration and security minister in 2008 under the administration of President Lee Myung-bak.

The fact that Cho is closely associated with Won has led many to suspect that the NIS was involved in the leak of the personal documents related to the woman, which was likely part of a bid to oust Chae from the prosecution. Chae stepped down from his post, less than six months after he was named prosecutor-general, amid allegations over his personal history.

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