Court blocks detention request

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Court blocks detention request

A local court rejected Saturday the prosecution’s request to detain a former aide to President Moon Jae-in to investigate him over bribery charges.

Jun Byung-hun, who resigned earlier this month as senior presidential secretary for political affairs, was accused of having forced a local home shopping channel to make donations to a sports association he had created. Jun was suspected of pressuring Lotte Homeshopping to donate 330 million won ($303,727) to the Korea e-Sports Association in 2015.

In 2015, Jun was the chairman of the association and also a three-term lawmaker on the National Assembly’s Future Planning, Broadcasting and Communications Committee, which had influence over the government’s decision to renew business licenses for home shopping channels.

The prosecution also said Jun made a suspicious request to the Ministry of Strategy and Finance in July of this year to allocate 2 billion won of the government budget to the association. Prosecutors are also considering charging Jun with abuse of power.

Judge Kang Bu-yeong of the Seoul Central District Court, however, said that the charges against Jun are disputable. “The prosecution seemed to have collected most of the necessary evidence and other people involved in the case were already detained, leaving a low possibility for evidence destruction,” Kang said. “Jun is also not a flight risk. Taking into account all factors, there is not enough ground for detention.”

“I apologize to the people for causing trouble,” Jun said as he left a warrant hearing. “I appreciate the court’s judgment to give me an opportunity to prove my innocence. I will fight hard to prove my innocence and lay bare the truth.”

He is the first key associate of Moon, who took office in May, to face a corruption probe. He has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

The prosecution challenged the decision. “We cannot accept the reasons,” an investigation team official said. “We will consider reapplying for a detention warrant after additional probes.”

Three others involved in the case, including two former aides to Jun, were detained earlier this month for the bribery case.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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