Gov’t worker is implicated in Chae leak caseThe government worker who the Blue House claimed asked a staff member on the presidential office’s general affairs team to illegally acquire the personal information of a 54-year-old woman and her 11-year-old son - the alleged paramour and illegitimate child of former Prosecutor-General Chae Dong-wook - denied the allegations yesterday.
His denial is the latest in an unfolding case concerning a Blue House employee’s request to the Seocho District official, Cho Lee-je, to acquire the records of the woman and her son. The government worker, an employee at the Public Administration and Security Ministry, was identified only by his surname Kim.
According to the JoongAng Ilbo, Kim denied the accusations waged against him in an internal probe by the Public Administration Ministry, claiming he never asked for “access to the family documents.”
On Wednesday, the Blue House claimed that Kim asked Cho Oh-young, a staff member on the general affairs team, to open the woman’s profile. The presidential office said that upon accepting Kim’s request, Cho Oh-young then asked Cho Lee-je at the Seocho District Office to illegally obtain and verify the information.
Cho Lee-je was a close aide to Won Sei-hoon, the former chief of the National Intelligence Service. He and Cho Oh-young are not related.
In the internal probe, Kim claimed he and the Blue House worker knew each other because they are distant relatives, but he said he never asked him for the woman’s information.
The case has bred speculation that the presidential office is trying to distance itself from the allegations by calling Cho’s actions a “unilateral move.”
When allegations first surfaced on Monday, the Blue House initially denied the accusation that its employee had asked Cho Lee-je to illegally access the documents; but it changed its stance a day later when the district official gave a detailed account of his interactions with the Blue House staffer. The presidential office added that it was conducting an internal probe.
On Wednesday, Lee Jung-hyun, the senior presidential secretary for public affairs, said at a press briefing that it was Kim who asked Cho Oh-young for the woman’s family documents. Cho was relieved of his duties on Wednesday and reported to the disciplinary committee.
But even as Kim has strongly denied the allegation, questions have arisen about the Blue House and its potential involvement in the case.
The fact that Cho Oh-young’s superior, Lee Jae-man, the presidential administrative secretary, is one of the three closest aides to President Park Geun-hye has also enforced suspicion that the Blue House’s senior-level officials were behind the leak against Prosecutor-General Chae.
Chae oversaw the prosecution’s investigation into the National Intelligence Service’s alleged online smear campaign ahead of last year’s presidential election, which disparaged Democratic candidate Moon Jae-in.
Prosecutors questioned Cho Oh-young and Kim on Wednesday. They also raided Kim’s office and home to collect any evidence that may indicate he was following an order by the Blue House’s upper chain of command.
BY KANG JIN-KYU [firstname.lastname@example.org]