Whistle-blower questioned by prosecution for first time

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Whistle-blower questioned by prosecution for first time


Kim Tae-woo, a former Blue House special inspector who claimed he was ordered to spy on private citizens, presents himself to the Seoul Eastern District Prosecutors’ Office on Thursday. [JANG JIN-YOUNG]

A former Blue House inspector who accused President Moon Jae-in’s closest aides of misconduct appeared at the Seoul Eastern District Prosecutors’ Office on Thursday to answer questions about the mushrooming surveillance scandal.

It was the first time Kim Tae-woo was questioned by the office since the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) asked the prosecution to charge Moon’s aides with spying on private citizens, covering up corruption by prominent liberal figures and compiling a blacklist of figures at the Environment Ministry. Those allegations were initially brought up last month by Kim, an investigator at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office who was temporarily dispatched to the Blue House special inspection bureau in July 2017. The bureau was supposed to monitor corruption among top government officials, as well as the president’s family.

The Blue House fired Kim in November 2018 after accusing him of interfering in a police investigation.

Kim, who arrived at the Seoul Eastern District Prosecutors’ Office at around 1:30 p.m. Thursday, stood in front of the media cameras and calmly recalled his time at the Blue House. He said Moon’s aides tried to whitewash any reports he authored that accused their close acquaintances of corruption.

Kim said that his colleagues at the Blue House special inspection bureau would “forcefully” investigate government officials’ cellphones, and that, if they failed to find any evidence backing their allegations, they would start digging into the officials’ private lives.

“I worked for 16 years in the public service thinking it was a virtue to simply do as I was ordered,” Kim said. “While working as a Blue House special inspector in this administration, I did my best, doing as I was told.”

After spending a year and a half with the Blue House, Kim said he reached the conclusion to inform the local press about the administrations’ alleged misdeeds.

The former inspector said he hoped that his answers to prosecutors will help reveal the truth.

Prosecutors said they will try to figure out whether Kim was responding to orders from his Blue House superiors when he carried out investigations that went beyond his legal limits. Kim said he was ordered to do so, but Blue House officials say the investigator acted alone.

The Blue House special inspection bureau is under the office of the presidential secretary of anti-corruption, Park Hyoung-chul. Park’s office, in turn, is supervised by the senior secretary of civil affairs, Cho Kuk.

Kim recently hired a new lawyer, who represented former President Park Geun-hye in her corruption trial. Kim’s old lawyer, Seok Dong-hyeon, resigned Wednesday, saying he didn’t want his past record as the head of a subcommittee of the opposition LKP to “tarnish the purity” of Kim’s accusations against the Blue House.

Kim said he is planning to hire more lawyers in the coming days.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN, KIM KI-JEONG [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]
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