Whistler-blower status is debated

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Whistler-blower status is debated

The Blue House and the anti-corruption commission clashed over the weekend on whether a former state employee fired for leaking information is actually a whistle-blower.

The Anti-Corruption & Civil Rights Commission said last Friday that Kim Tae-woo deserves the status, a status that, if conferred, affords special state protections. The Blue House immediately rejected that assessment, and then the commission head reaffirmed the determination.

Kim originally worked for the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office as an investigator. He was temporarily dispatched to the Blue House in July 2017 to serve in the special inspection bureau.

The bureau monitors top government officials tapped by President Moon Jae-in, as well as the president’s family, for possible corruption.

Last November, the Blue House fired Kim after accusing him of interfering in a police investigation. The president’s office sent him back to the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office and asked prosecutors to punish him.

Kim then began leaking details of his time at the Blue House to the local press, claiming he was ordered to spy on private citizens and that Moon’s top aides tried to cover up alleged corruption by powerful liberals.

On Dec. 19, the Blue House asked prosecutors to press charges against Kim for leaking confidential information to the press. Prosecutors initiated a probe, but Kim continued talking to the media and raised new allegations against Moon’s secretaries.

Kim asked the Anti-Corruption & Civil Rights Commission on Jan. 8 to acknowledge him as a state-protected whistle-blower so that he wouldn’t lose his job at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office announced on Jan. 11 that Kim was being fired, but the commission refused to help him reclaim his job, saying his whistle-blowing appeared not to be directly related to the decision to fire him.

The tit-for-tat between the commission and Blue House began last Friday when the commission responded to a local news report that claimed Kim was not acknowledged as a state-protected whistle-blower. The commission said Kim was certainly acknowledged, but reaffirmed its denial to help Kim get his job back.

The anti-corruption commission explained that Kim was a government-backed whistle-blower because he said he was ordered by the Blue House to investigate right-leaning executives at public organizations.

By law, the commission can name a person as a state-protected whistle-blower if they make claims in any of 284 types of cases where public interest is violated and when there is no clear proof that the person is lying.

A Blue House official said Sunday that the commission hasn’t acknowledged Kim as a state-protected whistle-blower and that there seems to have been a “misunderstanding.”

Pak Un-jong, the commission’s chairwoman, then reaffirmed that Kim is a state-protected whistle-blower during a telephone interview with the JoongAng Ilbo on Sunday.

BY PARK TAE-IN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]
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