Blue House officials deny blacklist

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Blue House officials deny blacklist

Blue House officials who were questioned by prosecutors last weekend denied allegations that the presidential office chose executives for several public organizations affiliated with the Environment Ministry and pushed the ministry to hire them.

Prosecutors probing the case refused to speak on the record, but a source with knowledge of the recent questioning said most Blue House officials who were called in testified that the Environment Ministry was in charge of the public hiring procedures and that the Blue House was notified about the recruits only after they were selected by the Environment Ministry.

It is unknown precisely how many Blue House officials were summoned, but at least two from the office of the presidential senior secretary for personnel affairs were said to have been questioned.

Prosecutors hope to summon the head of that office, senior secretary Cho Hyun-ock, soon, as well as other secretaries working under her.

Prosecutors believe, based on recently acquired documents, that the Environment Ministry used a blacklist to remove officials from public organizations affiliated with the ministry and filled their vacancies with associates of President Moon Jae-in. The documents allegedly show that the Blue House chose executives for several organizations before the recruiting process began and pressured the ministry to give those candidates special treatment, like telling the recommended candidates the questions they were going to be asked in the job interview beforehand and providing them answers.

If it turns out the Blue House chose certain candidates before the public hiring procedures began and pushed the Environment Ministry to hire them, it would qualify as “systematic employment corruption,” prosecutors say. The Blue House has denied any fault in the appointment practice of its administration, saying it is the job of the presidential senior secretary for personnel affairs to consult with ministers on the “direction” of their appointments.

The prosecution’s blacklist probe was launched last December after the main opposition Liberty Korea Party submitted a petition to prosecutors demanding they investigate top officials in the Environment Ministry, including former Minister Kim Eun-kyung, on abuse of power charges.

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

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