Turn over every leaf

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Turn over every leaf

The Blue House admitted that it has received a tip concerning former Ulsan Mayor Kim Gi-hyeon from a figure in the election camp of rival Song Cheol-ho, who was running as the ruling party candidate for the mayoral post ahead of the June 13 elections last year. The whistle-blower claimed he acted on an order from the Blue House. The presidential office initially denied this, but later explained that it learned of the information by coincidence and denied giving any orders.

An official at the presidential secretary office on civil affairs heard the information from an official of another government office at a camping site in October 2017. Later in the day, Song Byung-gi, sitting vice mayor of Ulsan who had worked at Song Cheol-ho’s election camp, was revealed as the person behind the tip-off. Song said he came to know the official from the presidential office through a friend. He had texted some information about the former mayor, but denied that he had considered the ramifications of the tip-off on the election.

The Blue House is now under suspicion of trying to cover up the details. The official of the civil affairs office said he had rewritten the intelligence report “to make it easier” to be read by his bosses. Since the special investigators in the Blue House do not have any authority to spy on elected public officials, they could have violated the law. Prosecutors who raided the Blue House to seek evidence on the allegations about its cover-up of former Busan vice mayor Yoo Jae-soo may have to summon other presidential staff to answer to the suspicions about the Ulsan case.

Yoon Do-han, chief presidential secretary for public affairs, reiterated the Blue House did not order spying and only summarized outside tips to refer to the police. He criticized the press for pushing for the identity of the person behind the tip-off, which goes against the law. The ruling Democratic Party (DP) lashed out at the bigoted nature of the prosecutorial probe. The ruling front appears to be entirely self-absorbed and has lost good judgment. Some suspect the nomination of Choo Mi-ae, former head of the ruling party, as the justice minister, indicates the Blue House’s will to play hard ball against the prosecution.

The ruling force’s morality is under question. President Moon Jae-in must command a sweeping investigation on the allegations against his staff. The case could become more complicated if it is guided by political reasoning. The suspicions won’t die down unless every leaf is turned over.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 6, Page 34
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