Indie counsel investigates role of NISThe independent counsel team led by Park Young-soo announced on Tuesday that it raided the home of Lee Byung-kee, former chief of staff to President Park Geun-hye and former head of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), after obtaining testimonies from former top officials in the Blue House that the NIS took part in creating the so-called blacklist of stars and cultural figures who were critical of the government.
Nearly 10,000 liberal figures in the Korean culture scene were allegedly barred from government funding. Choi Soon-sil, the longtime friend of President Park Geun-hye, who has been indicted over a corruption scandal, is also alleged to have used the blacklist to wield power in state affairs.
“We were told that the NIS would find cultural figures who were critical of the government and report them to the Blue House and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism,” said an independent counsel official. “The counsel may summon Lee and others in the NIS.”
Lee was the head of the NIS from June 2014 to March 2015. The list allegedly was written between 2014 and 2015. “It is suspected that the NIS made recommendations for the list to the Blue House,” said an insider to the independent counsel, “which then reviewed them and sent the finalists to the Culture Ministry.”
Lee denied the allegations.
“I swear that I have played no part in writing or managing [the list],” he said on Tuesday.
The independent counsel raided last month the homes of Kim Ki-choon, presidential chief of staff to Park from August 2013 to February 2015, and Culture Minister Cho Yoon-sun, who was senior presidential secretary for political affairs from June 2014 to May 2015. The two are alleged to have been involved in the creation and management of the alleged blacklist.
The counsel suspects that Lee, who was the presidential chief of staff after Kim, from March 2015 to May 2016, may have taken over the role Kim allegedly played in managing the blacklist. More testimonies that the blacklist exists have surfaced recently.
“The blacklist of cultural figures does exist,” said Kim So-young, former presidential secretary for education and culture, according to Dong-A Ilbo on Wednesday. “The presidential office for education and culture drafted the list and sent it to the Culture Ministry.”
BY HYUN IL-HOON, JEONG JIN-WOO [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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