Chief of Staff turned blind eye to report of leak, sources claim

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Chief of Staff turned blind eye to report of leak, sources claim

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Kim Ki-choon



Around late May or early June, Kim Ki-choon, the president’s chief of staff, was alerted about a massive leak of internal documents, including the one currently disputed from Jan. 6 about the findings from an internal investigation into former presidential aide Chung Yoon-hoi, but turned a blind eye to further investigation, according to multiple government sources.

“A report that Blue House documents had been [massively] leaked ascended all the way to the Presidential Civil Affairs Office but no investigation into that matter was carried out,” Cho Eung-cheon, the former secretary for civil service discipline under the Civil Affairs Office, said in an interview. “It’s significant that the issue was covered up rather than a proper probe being conducted.”

The former prosecutor and lawyer repeatedly stressed that he also gave a verbal report to Kim, who has officially been acknowledged as the closest and most loyal aide and adviser to President Park Geun-hye.

The incumbent Blue House chief of staff was mentioned in the report as one of the people Chung and other Blue House officials were attempting to oust.

But Kim denied Cho’s claim in recent phone calls with multiple ruling Saenuri Party lawmakers and reportedly told one legislator, who requested anonymity, that he sacked the presidential office workers who wrote the report in question.

“How could I possibly let them continue to work after seeing them produce an official document with information the level of jjirasi?” Kim was quoted as saying. “I disregarded the report and had the writers of the report discontinue their work [at the Blue House].”

Jjirasi is a term derived from a Japanese word that refers to unverified slander that circulates across the stock market community and the media.

But another former official at the Civil Affairs Office at the Blue House came up with a different theory. Kim ignored the potentially destructive report because it was hard to verify its content, and even if those allegations turned out to be true, he found it burdensome to confront the three presidential secretaries mentioned in the report, who are referred to as members of Chung’s alleged group, the source said.

The three secretaries the report refers to as the “three doorknobs” include Lee Jae-man, the current secretary for administrative affairs.

“It seems [Kim] was afraid that if his conflict with the three was exposed, it would cause a huge ripple effect,” the source said.

On Thursday, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism also denied a report from the Hankyoreh, a major left-wing daily, that Chung meddled in the ministry’s human resources (HR) affairs and that President Park ordered replacements for one mid-level and one high-level official at the ministry.

The ministry said HR affairs were an exclusive right of the minister.

BY BAEK SUNG-HO, SEO JI-EUN spring@joongang.co.kr



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