DP launches defense of Gov. Kim

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DP launches defense of Gov. Kim

The ruling Democratic Party (DP) launched a public campaign in defense of South Gyeongsang Gov. Kim Kyoung-soo Tuesday, holding a press conference at the National Assembly with legal analysts who criticized a Seoul court’s verdict to convict and detain him last month.

The party invited Busan University law Prof. Cha Jung-in to speak about Kim’s trial. The governor was found guilty of colluding with a well-known blogger to orchestrate a major online opinion rigging campaign during the last presidential elections.

“To begin, it cannot be said there was a collusive relationship between Gov. Kim and Druking,” Cha said, referring to the blogger Kim Dong-won by his internet alias. “The issues surrounding whether [Kim Kyoung-soo] watched a demonstration of King Crab and approved of its development are secondary.”

King Crab is the name Kim Dong-won’s group gave to an opinion rigging program it used to post and upvote thousands of comments on social media to support Moon Jae-in’s presidential bid. The court in Gov. Kim’s case eventually sided with the prosecution, which said he attended a demonstration session of the program’s prototype and gave the group his approval to use it to sway online opinion toward Moon.

According to Cha, this was based on fundamentally flawed evidence and testimony from Kim Dong-won himself. Kim Dong-won is believed to have turned his back on Gov. Kim and the Moon campaign once they refused to grant him political favors for his efforts.

“A court faithful to criminal law would have asked the prosecutors to submit more credible evidence and would have ruled against them,” Cha said.

The professor also found fault with the court’s decision to place the governor under immediate detention, thereby preventing him from exercising his duties as governor. Saying Kim Kyoung-soo had no cause to flee or try to get rid of evidence, Cha argued the court “should have considered the element on continuity in South Gyeongsang’s governance and other important values in making their decision to legally detain [him,] independent of his conviction.”

The press conference marks the beginning of what appears as a massive public relations campaign by the ruling party to convince the public the governor is innocent.

The party’s actions are likely due to the fact Kim Kyoung-soo is considered one of President Moon’s closest allies and was one of the potential candidates for the next presidential election.

In a controversial move that invited heavy backlash from opposition parties and several legal figures, the DP’s judicial reform committee even accused the presiding judge in Kim’s case, Seong Chang-ho, of collaborating with detained former Supreme Court Chief Justice Yang Sung-tae as part of a cartel of dishonest judges embroiled in a recent power abuse scandal.

Since then, several leading figures in the DP have come to Kim Kyoung-soo’s defense, such as party chairman Rep. Lee Hae-chan. On Monday, Lee told provincial officials in South Gyeongsang that the court should accept Gov. Kim’s bail request, saying “it is only common sense that a normal court would allow governance to take place without issues.”

Not all in the party, however, much less legal circles, support the DP’s criticism of the court. Several legal analysts, as well as sitting judges and prosecutors, have spoken out against the ruling party’s public statements, saying they could violate the independence of the judiciary and jeopardize the constitutional principle of separation of powers.

Too much politicization of a court decision could backfire against the party, several insiders say, particularly since the DP welcomed the court verdicts that jailed former Presidents Park Geun-hye and Lee Myung-bak and former Chief Justice Yang - all political rivals of the DP.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]
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