Cho claims texts were exchanged

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Cho claims texts were exchanged

Seocho District official Cho Lee-je claimed that he exchanged six text messages with a Blue House staffer, in which the presidential office worker requested that he illegally access the personal information of a 54-year-old woman and her 11-year-old son - the alleged paramour and illegitimate son of former Prosecutor-General Chae Dong-wook.

The district official said he even received a message from the Blue House employee thanking him for his cooperation in the matter.

His remarks are a direct contradiction to the presidential office’s initial claim that no one on its staff ever made such a request.

Cho’s comments are the latest in an ongoing scandal involving the rumors surrounding the disgraced prosecutor, who hasn’t been seen in public since he resigned from his post two months ago in September.

He told reporters on his way to work at the Seocho District Office yesterday morning that he exchanged six text messages in June with the official on the Blue House’s general affairs team. Coincidentally, the presidential office functionary is also surnamed Cho, though the two men are not related.

“Cho texted me the boy’s name, social registration number and home address and asked me to verify his personal information [by opening up the documents],” Cho Lee-je said.

He added that he assumed the Blue House staffer was a relative of the boy since the two are both from North Gyeongsang.

Cho Lee-je said that the Blue House official’s denial of events was “a lie.”

He added that the truth would emerge when authorities recovered the text messages.

The new revelation by Cho detailing his interactions with the presidential office staffer is likely to enforce suspicions that the Blue House was behind the leak of the illegally accessed information, part of a bigger plot to oust Chae from the top post at the prosecution.

The Blue House initially denied responsibility on Monday, when the allegations against its employee first surfaced.

However, as Cho Lee-je began speaking out about the incident, a Blue House official said yesterday that it is looking into the case.

Lee Jung-hyun, senior presidential secretary for public affairs, said yesterday that the civil affairs team at the Blue House is investigating the allegation.

According to the JoongAng Ilbo, the team is conducting a thorough probe and looking at the call histories and text messages sent by the employee.

“He strongly denied the allegations at first,” said a presidential official, who asked not to be identified. “But I understand he has shown some changes in his testimony over the course of questioning.”

It remains to be seen whether Cho was ordered by someone in the Blue House’s upper chain of command to ask Cho Lee-je for verification, or if he made the request on his own.



BY KANG JIN-KYU, KIM KI-HWAN [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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