YouTuber hit with raid over death threatsProsecutors on Thursday raided the home and studio of a conservative YouTuber who threatened to assassinate a leading prosecutor and other prominent liberal figures.
The suspect in question, Kim Sang-jin, on April 24 uploaded a video filmed in front of the residence of Yoon Seok-youl, the chief of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, in which he threatened to murder Yoon if he did not release former President Park Geun-hye from prison.
The video featured Kim, who is also the head of several right-wing groups, spewing profanities at Yoon, saying he would kill him with a “suicide squad” unless Park was freed, and that he knew the registration number of Yoon’s vehicle and the exact location of his home.
The clip has been seen over 72,000 times before it was deleted on Thursday, but Kim is believed to have profited off of advertising revenue on the video, as well as fifteen others containing threats leveled at figures like Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon and Rep. Woo Won-shik of the ruling Democratic Party.
Justice Minister Park Sang-ki on April 26 ordered prosecutors to launch an investigation into Kim’s threats of violence towards a law enforcement official, saying the acts “must not be tolerated” since they “constituted a serious crime that undermines the basis of the rule of law.”
But even after the government issued this statement, Kim continued to broadcast provocative content on his YouTube page, even filming for over three hours on Wednesday in front of the home of Sohn Suk-hee, an anchor and president of JTBC’s news reporting division.
Given that Kim is well known among Korea’s far-right activists and has around 54,000 subscribers on YouTube, prosecutors officially launched their investigation on Thursday with a sudden raid of his home in southern Seoul and studio in central Seoul.
They reportedly obtained several hard drives containing material used in his multiple videos and a list of figures he had directly threatened. Based on Kim’s own records, Sohn had been subject to his intimidations a total of six times, likely due to the fact that JTBC’s reporting played a pivotal role in bringing about Park Geun-hye’s downfall and impeachment in 2017.
In addition, prosecutors believe that Kim may also be linked to an alleged online opinion rigging campaign conducted by the elements of the country’s spy agency, the National Intelligence Service (NIS), under the conservative Lee Myung-bak administration to support Park Geun-hye’s presidential bid ahead of the 2012 elections.
Analysts say these threats by Kim, which follows an enraged man’s Molotov cocktail attack on the car of Supreme Court Chief Justice Kim Myeong-su last November, may be signs that political polarization in Korea is reaching a tipping point.
According to the Supreme Court’s records, five judges in 2018 have requested security details from the government after receiving threats, compared to only one in 2017.
Violent scuffles erupted at the National Assembly over the past week as a result of partisan conflict over several contentious bills, which, according to experts, may suggest to ordinary people that extreme behavior is their only recourse if their representatives can’t reach a political solution.
BY SHIM KYU-SEOK, PARK TAE-IN [firstname.lastname@example.org]