[Newsmaker] Another online scandal engulfs politics

By Choi He-suk

Published : Apr 16, 2018 - 16:54
Updated : Apr 16, 2018 - 17:19

The country’s political arena is being engulfed by yet another online public opinion manipulation scandal, this time with the ruling Democratic Party in the hot seat.

According to the police, a Democratic Party member identified by the surname Kim ran automated software to boost exposure of comments critical of the Moon Jae-in administration on Jan. 17.

Kim, currently in custody, is a power-blogger operating under the name “Druking.” Kim openly supported President Moon in last year’s presidential election, and has posted comments hinting at a larger online manipulation campaign on his social media accounts. 

Rep. Kim Kyoung-soo of the Democratic Party speaks at a press conference at the National Assembly on Saturday. Yonhap


Why a Moon-supporter incited anti-administration sentiments online remains unclear. However, it has been speculated that Kim’s actions were in response to Democratic Party’s Rep. Kim Kyoung-soo refusing his demands.

Along with Kim, two other Democratic Party members have been taken into custody, and two additional suspects are being investigated without detention.

The suspect is said to have run his online comment manipulation campaign from a publishing company located in Paju, Gyeonggi Province. The company, of which Kim was a co-president, was shut down in February, without having published any books in the eight years it was in operation.

The suspect is said to have been in contact with Kim Kyoung-soo of the ruling Democratic Party for an extended period of time, sending the lawmaker hundreds of messages on the messenger service Telegram.

The communications between the two men have raised suspicions that the first-term lawmaker masterminded the online campaign.

The police investigating the case, however, have since said that the lawmaker appears to have ignored most of the messages.

Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency Commissioner Lee Ju-min told reporters on Monday that although numerous messages were sent, the lawmaker left most of them unchecked.

Lee added that so far, there is little evidence to indicate that the two exchanged messages, and that Kim Kyoung-soo does not appeared to have read any of the files sent by the suspect.

The lawmaker on Saturday claimed that the suspect made “unreasonable demands regarding (the government’s) personnel selection,” after the presidential election.

The police have also confirmed that the suspect claimed that he requested Kim Kyoung-soo to give the position of the consul-general in Osaka, Japan, and a Cheong Wa Dae post to his acquaintances. The police, however, said that the suspect made the claims in a group chat with members of the online community he operates, and does not appear to have sent a related message to the lawmaker.

The ruling party has been quick to sever ties with the suspects, expelling them from the party on Monday.

“The supreme council decided to expel the two people who marred the party’s honor,” Democratic Party spokesman Rep. Park Beom-kye said.

“It has also been decided that a truth-finding committee will be launched to quickly draw up responses.”

Cheong Wa Dae has also denied knowledge of the alleged developments.

While the ruling party and the presidential office are distancing themselves from the developments, the main opposition Liberty Korea Party is raising the heat, threatening to call for a special counsel investigation.

“If the police attempts to hide or reduce the Druking case, the Liberty Korea Party will launch a special counsel,” Liberty Korea Party floor leader Rep. Kim Sung-tae said Monday.

Claiming there are forces within the police trying to hide the truth, Kim Sung-tae went on to accuse the police of giving the suspects time to destroy evidence.

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)

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The Korea Herald by Herald Corporation