Politics CIO opens probe of presidential candidate Yoon

CIO opens probe of presidential candidate Yoon
Presidential candidate and former prosecutor general Yoon Seok-youl is shown in this file photo dated June 29. [NEWS1]
Presidential candidate and former prosecutor general Yoon Seok-youl is shown in this file photo dated June 29. [NEWS1]
The Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO) said Friday it opened a case on presidential candidate Yoon Seok-youl.  
 
“We began our probe on Yoon to investigate him for possible power abuse, divulgence of official secrets and violations of the Personal Information Protection Act and the Public Official Election Act,” the CIO said in its statement on Friday.  
 
Yoon, prosecutor general at the time of the general elections on April 15, 2020, has been accused of helping Son Jun-sung, a high-ranking prosecutor working for Yoon, share drafts of criminal complaints against journalists and political figures affiliated with the ruling Democratic Party (DP) with Kim Woong, a prosecutor-turned-politician who was managing the general election campaign for the United Future Party (UFP), a predecessor of today's opposition People Power Party (PPP).
 
In short, the allegation is that Yoon encouraged a high-ranking prosecutor to work with his friend in the UFP to try to smear the campaigns of DP candidates by pushing the UFP to lodge criminal complaints against DP members and their friends. 
 
Kim is now a first-term lawmaker for the PPP, Son a human rights protection official at the Daegu High Prosecutors’ Office and Yoon a presidential candidate for the PPP. 
 
The CIO on Thursday also launched a probe into Son in the same case. Kim will be questioned as a witness in the case, the CIO said. The CIO raided both Son’s and Kim’s offices on Friday.  
 
Yoon on Sunday announced he will be asking the CIO to investigate the so-called whistleblower behind the allegations, Cho Sung-eun, former deputy chief of the election committee of the UFP during the general elections last year, and National Intelligence Service chief Park Jie-won, for allegedly colluding to try to obstruct Yoon’s election campaign.  
 
“We will ask the CIO tomorrow [Monday] to investigate Park for violating election laws,” said PPP Rep. Chang Jie-won, who is one of Yoon’s campaign managers, in a press briefing on Sunday. “[Cho and Park Jie-won] had dinner together at a restaurant in a hotel in Seoul in August […] and suspicions have been raised that Cho is a close acquaintance of Park. The two may be plotting something to smear the election campaign of one of the strongest candidates from the opposition party.”
 
PPP floor leader Kim Gi-hyeon also held a press conference on Sunday questioning Park’s relationship with Cho.
 
People Power Party floor leader Kim Gi-hyeon questions whistleblower Cho Sung-eun's relationship with National Intelligence Service chief Park Jie-won during a press conference at the National Assembly in western Seoul on Sunday. [NEWS1]
People Power Party floor leader Kim Gi-hyeon questions whistleblower Cho Sung-eun's relationship with National Intelligence Service chief Park Jie-won during a press conference at the National Assembly in western Seoul on Sunday. [NEWS1]
The allegations against Yoon first surfaced when Newsverse, an online news outlet, reported on Sept. 2 that Son shared drafts of criminal complaints against journalists and political figures affiliated with the ruling DP with Kim ahead of the general elections in April 2020.
 
The criminal complaints against 11 individuals, including several journalists and political figures affiliated with the DP, accused them of violating the public office election law and the promotion of information and communications network act. These individuals included five MBC reporters; staff at online media outlet Newstapa; Rhyu Si-min, chairman of the Roh Moo-hyun Foundation; and Choe Kang-wook, head of the liberal Open Democratic Party.  
 
Newsverse published screen grabs of the complaints sent over encrypted messaging app Telegram. The screen grabs showed the name Son Jun-sung as the sender of the message. The messages between Kim and Son were dated April 3 and April 8 of last year. It was unclear, however, if the sender's name alone could prove Prosecutor Son's involvement.
 
In an interview with JTBC aired Friday, Cho revealed herself as a source for the Newsverse report. She said Kim sent the drafts of the criminal complaints from Son to her in Telegram messages.
 
“I have submitted to the CIO my phone, which contains Telegram messages from April 3, 2020 to April 8, 2020,” Cho told JTBC, adding that they include the messages from Kim to Cho asking her to submit the criminal complaints directed at journalists and political figures to the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office. 

 
The UFP did file to the prosecution a criminal complaint against the head of the liberal Open Democratic Party, Choe Kang-wook, in August 2020. Choe was found guilty of violating election laws in June. Others accused in the criminal complaints are undergoing investigations or trials. 
 
Cho speaking with the JTBC recently. The interview was aired on Friday. [JTBC]
Cho speaking with the JTBC recently. The interview was aired on Friday. [JTBC]

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]
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