Blue House admits role of staffer in Chae leak

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Blue House admits role of staffer in Chae leak

The presidential office confirmed yesterday that one of its staffers asked a Seoul district official to illegally access the family history 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.

It was a stark turnaround from its initial response to the allegations raised on Monday.

“Cho, who was on the Blue House general affairs team, sent a text message via mobile phone to Cho Lee-je at the Seocho District Office asking him to verify the information on June 11,” said Lee Jung-hyun, the senior presidential secretary for public affairs, at a press briefing yesterday.

Lee said the Blue House also confirmed through an internal probe that its staffer, whom it would only identify by the surname Cho, had “received the personal information of the woman and her son,” and it was illegally retrieved by the district official Cho Lee-je. The two men are not related. The Blue House official added it was a government worker at the Ministry of Security and Public Administration who asked Cho at the Blue House to open up the woman’s family history. Cho, the Blue House staffer, also knew the other Cho at the Seocho District Office, who was previously a close aide to Won Sei-hoon, the former chief of the National Intelligence Service.

Prosecutor-General Chae was forced to step down in September because of allegations that he had an 11-year-old love child with a former paramour. Chae was in the middle of an investigation into whether the NIS interfered in last year’s presidential campaign to help the chances of President Park Geun-hye. It was suspected from the start that the Blue House dredged up the love-child allegations to get him off the investigation.

The identity of worker from the Ministry of Security and Public Administration mentioned by the Blue House yesterday was not disclosed.

The Blue House official claimed its staffer Cho acted on his own.

“No one [in the upper chain of command] at the Blue House was confirmed to have asked Cho [to ask for the illegal access],” said Lee. “It was Cho’s unilateral action.”

Lee said Cho was relieved of his duties yesterday and reported to the Blue House’s disciplinary committee.



BY SEO JI-EUN, KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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