Gov. Kim hit for bail application

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Gov. Kim hit for bail application

South Gyeongsang Gov. Kim Kyoung-soo, jailed over an opinion rigging scandal during the 2017 presidential election, stirred up controversy when he applied for bail last week.

Kim, a key associate of President Moon Jae-in, asked the Seoul High Court on Friday to release him on bail. He has been jailed since Jan. 30, when the Seoul Central District Court gave him a two-year prison term for conspiring with a blogger to manipulate online public opinion ahead of the election.

After announcing the conviction, the court ordered Kim’s immediate detention, and he was sent directly from the courtroom to the Seoul Detention Center. Kim appealed the case the next day and hired four additional lawyers to form a seven-member defense team. Kim then sent a bail application to the Seoul High Court on Friday, just two days after the same court granted bail to another high-profile defendant. Former President Lee Myung-bak was released on bail Wednesday after nearly a year of imprisonment over graft charges.

In his bail application, Kim said he is an incumbent governor who has to oversee the province’s affairs. He also said there is no risk of evidence destruction and flight and he wants to undergo the trial without being physically detained.

The liberal and conservative parties reacted differently toward Kim’s move. The ruling Democratic Party (DP) and liberal opposition Party for Democracy and Peace and Justice Party defended Kim for having exercised his lawful rights, while the conservative Liberty Korea Party (LKP) and Bareunmirae Party criticized him for attempting to destroy evidence.

The team of independent counsel Huh Ik-bum, which investigated and prosecuted Kim, also said it opposes giving him bail. “Of course, we will ask the court to turn down his request,” a member of the team told the JoongAng Ilbo.

“Kim is not a flight risk, and there is no risk that he will destroy evidence,” said Rep. Hong Ik-pyo, the DP’s spokesman. “There is also a governance vacuum in South Gyeongsang. Taking the situation into account, we hope to see the court release him on bail so that he will perform his duty as governor while going through his trial.”

Kim Jeong-hyeon, spokesman of the Party for Democracy and Peace, also said that applying for bail is a defendant’s legal right.

“The court must make an impartial decision without any political considerations,” he said, adding the DP should stop any action that can be interpreted as pressure on the court.

Rep. Lee Yang-soo, an LKP spokesman, issued a statement condemning Kim’s application for bail.

“Kim has shown no remorse for having violated and destroyed democracy with his opinion rigging in the presidential election,” Lee said. “Kim’s argument that there are no concerns about evidence destruction sounds like there is no more evidence to destroy because the initial probe was extremely poorly conducted. He actually needs another investigation, not bail.”

Bareunmirae Party spokesman Lee Jong-cheol said it was shameless for Kim to request bail just 37 days after detention. “He seems to be buoyed by former President Lee’s bail,” he said. “He must stop daydreaming.”

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