Ulsan raid probes administration’s role

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Ulsan raid probes administration’s role

Prosecutors conducted a nine-hour raid on the Ulsan Metropolitan City Hall and the residence of a close confidant of the current mayor on Saturday amid allegations that the Blue House meddled in the city’s 2018 mayoral election.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office ordered a raid on key offices in City Hall starting around 10:30 a.m. and concluding around 7:50 p.m. amid allegations that the Blue House, ruling Democratic Party and officials of the Ulsan Metropolitan City colluded and meddled in current Ulsan Mayor Song Cheol-ho’s election campaign.

Some 10 investigators searched the offices of transportation planning, future industries, tourism and general affairs and seized documents and files including some related to Song’s campaign. The residences of several officials were also raided the same day. But Song’s office and residence were not included.

However, a search was conducted on the office and residence of Jeong Mong-joo, 54, an Ulsan city special adviser for political affairs, who is a close confidant of Song. Jeong worked on Song’s mayoral campaign in 2017.

He is also alleged to have had a hand in Song’s key campaign pledges such as the construction of a public hospital. Prosecutors suspect that the Blue House supported the construction of a general public hospital in Ulsan, along with other campaign pledges by Song. Jeong is said to be the first outside hire by Song after he was elected mayor and took his position as special adviser on political affairs in August 2018.

Jeong is also believed to have been in a meeting ahead of the June 13, 2018, local elections that included Blue House officials and Song Byung-gi, Ulsan’s vice mayor for economic affairs - who is the source that tipped off a former Blue House official about alleged bribery allegations involving former Ulsan Mayor Kim Gi-hyeon’s confidants.

The Ulsan mayoral elections resulted in the victory of Song Cheol-ho, a candidate of the ruling Democratic Party and a longtime friend of President Moon Jae-in, over Kim Gi-hyeon of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, who had been running for a second term as mayor.

In the latest raid, prosecutors were looking for whether Ulsan City Hall officials were involved in Song’s election preparation process and whether he received aid from the Blue House and other outside sources.

Jeong Jin-woo, a former aide to Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae when she was chair of the Democratic Party, was also questioned as a witness by prosecutors on Friday for allegedly arranging the meeting between Vice Mayor Song, special adviser Jeong and Blue House officials. This was the second time in a month that the Ulsan City Hall was raided following a search on Dec. 6 on Vice Mayor Song’s office and residence.

BY LEE JI-YOUNG, SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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