Deadlocked on Druking

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Deadlocked on Druking

Korea’s own “fake news” scandal has entered a new phase. The police recently interrogated Kim Dong-won, the blogger known as Druking who led an online group accused of abusing the comments sections on news stories and manipulating public opinion for partisan purposes.

New evidence suggests their activities date as far back as October 2016, when calls for then-President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment were growing. Posts on over 90,000 articles can be traced back to Kim’s group, including rumors and comments slandering Ban Ki-moon, the former United Nations secretary general who emerged as a potential presidential candidate last year. A USB drive seized from Druking’s home contains proof of their activities.

Another blogger who went by the online alias Chobbo identified himself as a member of Druking’s group and as the member of a group supporting Moon Jae-in, then a presidential candidate. His relationship with Druking, who was a registered member of the Democratic Party, suggests the scope of the group’s campaigning activities.

The USB drive also included details of Kyungkongmo, an online community that Druking ran. The group allegedly raised 27 million won ($25,000) from 200 members with the intention of donating them to Kim Kyung-soo, a Democratic lawmaker with close ties to Moon, in November 2016. Each person’s donation was in the range of 50,000 to 100,000 won. If the money collection involved some form of coercion, the organizers could be charged with breaking campaign finance laws.

The new findings suggest Kim Kyung-soo should be thoroughly investigated. The lawmaker is currently campaigning for the South Gyeongsang governorship, but authorities must question him on the donations. He should not think he is safe just because police have cleared him after questioning him as a witness.

A special investigation is the only way to get to the bottom of this case. In the National Assembly, the Democratic Party is blaming the opposition for delaying a supplementary budget and connecting it to a bill mandating an independent counsel. But bipartisan agreement has not been possible because the Democrats refuse to include certain areas of the case in the counsel’s investigative authority.

The police and prosecutors have lost confidence in their ability to thoroughly investigate the case. The legislature must reach an agreement on the independent counsel’s mandate. The counsel should investigate not just the Druking group’s involvement in rigging comments on news stories, but also their activities during the presidential election and members’ political connections.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 11, Page 30
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