Kim and Cho indicted in blacklist investigation

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Kim and Cho indicted in blacklist investigation

Aides of President Park Geun-hye, including her former chief of staff and former culture minister, were indicted Tuesday on charges of cutting funds to liberal artists and abusing power to purge public servants. Special prosecutors also said Park was a co-conspirator in the crimes.

Independent counsel Park Young-soo prosecuted Kim Ki-choon, former presidential chief of staff, and Cho Yoon-sun, former culture minister, after investigating the so-called blacklist scandal. The independent counsel and his team has been looking into Park’s abuse of power and influence-peddling scandal, which involves her friend Choi Soon-sil and associates.

An allegation that the administration created a blacklist of cultural figures critical of the administration, depriving them of funding and opportunities, was part of the investigation.

Cho and Kim are key associates of the troubled president, impeached in December for allowing her secret inner circle to interfere in state affairs. Cho was Park’s senior political secretary from 2014 to 2015 and was appointed as the culture minister last year. She only stepped down on Jan. 21, 2017, after investigators arrested her.

Kim served as the presidential chief of staff from 2013 to 2015.

Assistant independent counsel Lee Kyu-chul said Tuesday Kim and Cho were indicted with pretrial detentions. Former presidential education and culture senior secretary Kim Sang-ryul and former culture and sports secretary Kim So-young were also prosecuted over the blacklist scandal without detentions.

Lee said Kim Ki-choon was also prosecuted on charges of forcing three directors of the Culture and Sports Ministry to resign. He was also indicted for perjury during last year’s parliamentary investigation and hearing.

Cho was also indicted on charges of having lied during the National Assembly’s investigation and hearing on the blacklist scandal.

While Park was named a co-conspirator in the blacklist scandal, she was not prosecuted Tuesday because of her presidential immunity from a criminal indictment. When the independent counsel indicted former culture minister Kim Jong-deok, Cho’s predecessor, and other Blue House officials and the culture ministry for the scandal, Park was named a co-conspirator.

Park, however, denied having any knowledge of the blacklist. “Media reports said many artists were on the list, but I have no knowledge of it,” she said when she talked to journalists on Jan. 1, 2017.

“President Park’s charges were also stated in the indictment papers of Kim and Cho,” Lee said. “But it is inappropriate for us to discuss in detail how she made the orders, because they are charges against her.”

Lee said Choi was also named as a co-conspirator in some of the charges listed on the indictment papers filed against the four people on Tuesday.

The independent counsel team, however, decided to not distribute the indictment papers to the press because they do not want to make public the charges, taking into account a plan to question Park in person. “Because our investigations on the president and Choi are incomplete, we cannot make public the indictment papers because it would reveal their charges,” Lee said.

The independent counsel also said it is still discussing scheduling and other specifics to conduct a face-to-face questioning of President Park. “We first said we want the questioning in early February,” Lee said. “That would be up until Feb. 10, [which falls this Friday]. We expect that the questioning can take place around the time.”

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