Police HQ raided amid Ulsan mayoral election probe

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Police HQ raided amid Ulsan mayoral election probe

Prosecutors raided police headquarters in Seoul Thursday to collect evidence corroborating allegations that the Blue House meddled in the 2018 Ulsan mayoral election by ordering the police to investigate a candidate backed by the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) on possible corruption charges shortly before the race in order to sway public opinion.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office announced that it dispatched a team of prosecutors and investigators to the Korean National Police Agency in Seodaemun District, western Seoul, on Thursday morning to raid the office of the director-general for ICT management and equipment and look into the police’s email network, internal messenger and computer system for sending official documents.

Prosecutors believe police officers leaked information about the probe into the LKP candidate to the Blue House in 2018 by sending messages to their colleagues who had been temporarily dispatched to work for the presidential office, using the police messenger.

Thursday’s raid was the third time prosecutors raided a police office.

As prosecutors broaden their probe into the election-meddling scandal, Hwang Un-ha, who at the time of the Ulsan police investigation was serving as the Ulsan police chief, wrote on Facebook Thursday that he’s been summoned by prosecutors for questioning.

In October 2017, former Ulsan Mayor for Economic Affairs Song Byung-gi tipped off a Blue House official working in the presidential secretary for civil affairs office about corruption allegations against then-Ulsan Mayor Kim Gi-hyeon and his aides, which was made into a Blue House report to be passed to the Ulsan police.

Back then, Song was a campaign operative for Song Cheol-ho, the current Ulsan mayor who was backed by the ruling Democratic Party (DP) in the election.

Police opened a probe into the suspicions shortly before the June 2018 Ulsan mayoral race, and Kim, who at the time was seeking a second term along with support from the LKP, eventually lost to Song.

A follow-up investigation by prosecutors eventually cleared Kim and his aides of any wrongdoing in March 2019, and prosecutors have since been probing whether the police investigation was intended to sway public opinion in favor of the DP.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN, KIM SU-MIN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]
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