The public deserves answersAccording to suspects in a probe, an internet user with the alias “Druking” has been running organized activities to sway political opinion. He drew online activists by establishing a ghost publisher. Witnesses said there had been many people at the publisher’s office. When police raided the office, they seized over 150 smartphones.
The publishing company did not publish any works, but it hired four workers. They used three floors of a four-story building and paid 5 million won ($4,658) in monthly rent. In his blog last year, Druking wrote that President Moon Jae-in’s victory in the presidential election was owed to “meticulous preparation” from his organization. The police must thoroughly probe this group’s activities in the last presidential election and its funding.
Druking communicated with ruling Democratic Party Rep. Kim Kyoung-soo through the encrypted messaging app Telegram. He notified Kim that he spearheaded his campaign through bulk online “likes” to sway opinion ahead of the snap presidential election in May last year. Kim had been the main spokesman for Moon’s campaign.
Police said the blogger demanded his acquaintance be given the consul general position in Osaka from Kim for his contribution to the election.
The lawmaker admitted that favors were asked of him. The fact that the suspect bluntly asked for senior positions suggests that he had some debt to redeem. The lawmaker reportedly thanked the blogger many times in their conversations.
Despite strong circumstantial evidence pointing to an organized opinion manipulation campaign condoned by the ruling party, the police so far have not shown a willingness to dig into the case. After arresting Druking and referring the case to the prosecution, they did not hand over the messages between Kim and Druking. Lee Ju-min, chief of the Seoul police, said civilians are free to comment as they wish, but fabricating or borrowing an identity could be illegal.
He suggested that, if Druking had not employed automation tools to set up a number of likes and comments, his activities would not be illegal even if he did sway online opinion. But legal experts say that, if Moon’s camp really funded the organization secretly, they violated the public office election law.
If the police continue to dilly-dally, the prosecution will have to investigate. If the prosecution’s probe doesn’t go anywhere, law enforcement authorities will again have kowtowed to the ruling party. If much is left unanswered, a special counsel or parliamentary probe will be the only answer.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 17, Page 30