Former conservative Ulsan Mayor Kim Gi-hyeon, who lost his reelection bid to liberal opponent Song Cheol-ho in 2018, faced questioning by the prosecution for the second consecutive day Monday over suspected election meddling by Cheong Wa Dae.
The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office summoned Kim at 10 a.m. Monday for a second round of questioning regarding suspicions Cheong Wa Dae was behind the police probe into Kim’s close associates ahead of the elections last year. Kim was questioned for about 10 hours on Sunday from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Meanwhile, Cheong Wa Dae senior secretary for public communications Yoon Do-han said in a press release Sunday that there had been “no intelligence collection (on Kim) nor an investigation order” on the part of the presidential office.
Former Ulsan Mayor Kim Gi-hyeon appears at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office on Sunday. (Yonhap)
Arriving at the prosecutors’ office on Monday, Kim hit back at Cheong Wa Dae’s denial of having directed the probe, saying he had seen the intelligence report with his own eyes.
He said the ongoing allegations of an unwarranted probe, if proven true, would amount to “election rigging” and a “disgrace to democracy.”
“We have to get to the bottom of who pulled the strings behind the scenes, and to what end,” he said.
The Ulsan Metropolitan Police Agency carried out the investigation targeting Kim’s associates in March 2018, three months before the elections June 13, upon receiving intelligence from the presidential office in late 2017.
The investigation became highly publicized, and Kim subsequently lost to ruling Democratic Party contender Song, who boasted close ties with President Moon Jae-in throughout the election campaign.
“I am the only one whom (the president) refers to as ‘brother,’” Song said on the campaign trail in June last year. “I will be going in and out of Cheong Wa Dae like nobody’s business.”
Justice Minister nominee Choo Mi-ae, who was the ruling Democratic Party chairwoman at the time, told Ulsan voters that “Moon Jae-in is with Song” at one of Song’s rallies.
Daejeon Metropolitan Police Agency chief Hwang Un-ha, then the chief of Ulsan Metropolitan Police Agency, denied allegations that Cheong Wa Dae intervened in the police probe of Kim’s associates, in a Facebook post Sunday.
On the prosecution’s questioning of Ulsan police officials who were involved in the probe, Hwang accused the prosecutors of “framing the case” and “abusing their powers to indict and subpoena.”
Hwang added he would be called in by prosecutors soon and complained police were being “treated like criminals” for trying to eradicate corruption in public office.
By Kim Arin (firstname.lastname@example.org