Prosecutors raid suspect Blue House bureau

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Prosecutors raid suspect Blue House bureau

Prosecutors raided the Blue House special inspection bureau on Wednesday in an ongoing probe into allegations that the bureau spied on private citizens.

Blue House spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said in a press briefing that prosecutors and investigators from the Seoul Eastern District Prosecutors’ Office arrived at one of the gates leading to the Blue House at 9 a.m. on Wednesday with a search warrant, and were expected to wrap up their raid by 5:30 p.m. But Kim offered scant details of the procedure, saying that, for security-sensitive areas, the Blue House offered the materials prosecutors requested without having them physically entering the buildings. More than one computer was confiscated, said Kim, without elaborating any further.

Prosecutors said they collected evidence from the Blue House special inspection bureau and the office of the presidential secretary for anti-corruption, which oversees the bureau. Yoon Young-chan, President Moon Jae-in’s senior secretary for public affairs, said earlier that prosecutors did not physically enter the Blue House complex.

Since last Friday, the Seoul Eastern District Prosecutors’ Office has been investigating allegations that Moon’s top aides spied on private citizens and covered up corruption by some major liberal figures. The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) filed a complaint with prosecutors last Thursday that urged a thorough look into the accusations. As prosecutors raided the Blue House special inspection bureau, the LKP urged Cho Kuk, the presidential senior secretary for civil affairs, to appear at a parliamentary hearing of the House Steering Committee to clarify the suspicions.

A high-level Blue House official refused the LKP’s request in a telephone interview with the JoongAng Ilbo the same day, saying that the time will come when Cho makes a public announcement on the whistle-blowing scandal once prosecutors wrap up their probe into his allegations.

It was the LKP’s latest attempt to hold Cho accountable for the surveillance accusations that have been dogging the Moon Jae-in administration for over a week. A former investigator at the Blue House special inspection bureau has been leaking details of his time at the bureau to the local press since Dec. 14. The investigator says he wants to clear his tarnished name after he was fired from the team last month over suspicions he interfered in a police investigation, which he denies.

Cho has been in the LKP’s crosshairs because his office controls the office of the anti-corruption secretary, Park Hyoung-chul. Park’s office, in turn, controls the Blue House special inspection bureau.

Last Thursday, the LKP filed a request with prosecutors to charge Cho, Park and Moon’s Chief of Staff Im Jong-seok for illegal surveillance and for covering up misconduct by prominent figures in the Moon administration. Also accused was a former Kim & Chang attorney who led the Blue House special inspection bureau until last month, when the entire team was fired in the wake of accusations that members went golfing during office hours. Rep. Na Kyung-won, the LKP’s new floor leader, pointed the finger at Im and Cho on Wednesday during a party meeting. She urged them to explain the scandal at a hearing of the House Steering Committee. Na, a former judge, and Cho, a former law professor, both entered Seoul National University’s School of Law in 1982.

“It’s proven clear that the administration produced a new sort of jeokpye [deep-rooted evil] when it pledged to root out just that,” said Na, using a term frequently used by Moon. Na also accused Justice Minister Park Sang-ki of relaying a “probe guideline” to prosecutors when, in an interview with the left-leaning Kyunghyang Shinmun published on Wednesday, Park said he found the whistle-blower’s actions “extremely deplorable.”

Na claimed that former Blue House investigator Kim Tae-wu found himself on the wrong side of the presidential office because he kept compiling damning reports on influential figures in the Moon administration.

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