President’s sister-in-law features in leaked reportThe leak of Blue House documents that ignited a complex and expanding political scandal involving key aides to President Park Geun-hye and her family members included reports compiled from months-long surveillance of Park’s sister-in-law, sources from the presidential office told the JoongAng Ilbo on Friday.
Quoting a leaked Blue House document authored by the Office of the Presidential Secretary for Civil Service Discipline, the Segye Ilbo reported on Nov. 28 that Chung Yoon-hoi, Park’s former aide, routinely met with the president’s key secretaries and influenced political affairs behind the scenes. A rumored power struggle between Chung and Park Ji-man, the president’s younger brother, was also reported as the scandal expanded.
“In June, Cho Eung-cheon, the former presidential secretary for civil service discipline, informed the Blue House about a possible leak and submitted copies of 128 pages of documents through a staffer,” a presidential official told the JoongAng Ilbo. “Most of the documents were surveillance reports on Seo Hyang-hee, the president’s sister-in-law.”
Seo, 40, is a lawyer and the wife of Park Ji-man, who is the chairman of EG Group, an electronic materials producer. The couple married in 2004.
“Not a single part of the submitted documents concerned Park Ji-man, including the allegation reported in March by the Sisa Journal [a weekly magazine] that he had been followed [by someone hired by Chung],” the official said. “Most of the documents were about suspected corruption involving Park’s confidants, including Seo and EG executives.”
According to the Blue House, Cho - through a staffer only identified as Oh - submitted a report on June 1 to the upper chain of command in the Blue House on the leak. Along with copies of the leaked documents was a six-page investigative report, as well as a five-page transcript, that detailed conversations between a Segye Ilbo journalist and a police officer from the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency.
In an ongoing investigation, prosecutors suspect two junior police officers from the intelligence bureau at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency were involved in the leak; the two officers were already questioned last week. One of the police officers seconded to the Office of the Presidential Secretary for Civil Service Discipline stole the documents created by Park Gwan-cheon and leaked them to the Segye Ilbo reporter through an investigator at the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office, Blue House sources quoted Cho’s report as stating.
Cho suggested in his report that the documents must be retrieved as soon as possible. The sources also quoted the transcript of the conversation between the reporter and a police officer as saying that Park Gwan-cheon was not the one who leaked the report and had been framed.
Park Gwan-cheon, a police chief superintendent who worked at the Blue House Office for Civil Service Discipline under Cho until February, was suspected by the Blue House and the prosecution as the leaker. He has admitted to authoring the leaked report, but denies that he had leaked it.
The prosecution questioned the Segye Ilbo journalist on Thursday about how he had obtained the document.
Meanwhile, the Segye Ilbo reported on Friday that Park Ji-man had asked Jeong Ho-seong, a personal secretary to the president, to investigate the leak of documents. However, Jeong denied that he had contact with the president’s brother.
“[Blue House staffer] Oh showed me the report on the leak and the copies of leaked documents,” Jeong said. “So I ordered him to take measures by going through the senior secretary for civil affairs, who oversees the civil service discipline secretary.”
At the time, the Blue House conducted an internal probe to identify the leaker by investigating all police officers seconded to the Office for Civil Service Discipline, but Oh refused to say where he got the leaked documents. The investigation, therefore, was ceased, Blue House officials said.
A Blue House official said Park Gwan-cheon appeared to be the leaker, but he acted as if he was not and informed the Blue House that a leak had taken place to cover up his actions.
The source said the conclusion was based on Cho’s report on the leak and the attached transcript.
A prosecution source also supported the conclusion. “We suspect that Park printed out documents from the Blue House before he left the job and two police officers from the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency copied them and leaked them to the Segye Ilbo,” the source said. “We don’t think there was another leak channel.”
BY SHIN YONG-HO, JUNG HYO-SIK [firstname.lastname@example.org]