Court decisions oust two PPP elected officials
Two elected officials from the People Power Party (PPP) lost their posts on Thursday after the Supreme Court upheld decisions made by lower courts.
Kim Tae-woo, the chief of Seoul’s Gangseo District, was ousted from his post after the Supreme Court upheld his conviction for leaking official secrets during his tenure at the Blue House under the Moon Jae-in administration.
Justice Park Jung-hwa, who presided over the case, confirmed a lower court’s decision to hand Kim a one-year prison sentence, suspended for two years, thus barring him from running in future elections.
Under the Local Autonomy Act, local government officials who lose their right to stand election are automatically deprived of their seats. Kim’s now-vacated seat will likely be subject to a by-election as early as October.
Kim, a former prosecution investigator who was elected Gangseo District chief in local government elections held in June last year, was charged with leaking official secrets to the media while he was assigned to a special investigative team under the chief presidential secretary for civil affairs from December 2018 to February 2019.
Classified information he was accused of leaking to the media included intelligence on allegations of bribery against Woo Yoon-keun, Korea’s former ambassador to Russia, and former Korea National Railway Chief Kim Sang-gyun, along with other classified reports compiled by the special investigative team.
Kim appealed to the Supreme Court after a district court and an appeals court both found him guilty of leaking official secrets.
He unsuccessfully argued that Blue House intelligence reports could not be regarded as official secrets and that even if they were, he divulged them to the media out of the public interest.
In a separate case, the Supreme Court confirmed a 10 million won ($7,500) fine on the chief campaign accounting manager of PPP lawmaker Kim Sun-gyo.
Although presiding Justice Oh Kyeong-mi acquitted Kim himself of other charges against him, including misuse of political funds, the fine automatically deprives him of his seat in the National Assembly.
Under the Public Official Election Act, the election of a lawmaker is voided if their chief accounting manager is handed a prison term or a fine exceeding 3 million won for accounting-related crimes committed during the election.
Kim and his chief accounting manager were both indicted for accepting campaign donations beyond the legal annual limit of 150 million won before the April 2020 parliamentary election.
They were also accused of spending election funds beyond the legal cap, not issuing receipts for campaign donations made in cash and omitting expenses totaling 30 million won from accounting reports.
A district court initially fined Kim’s accounting manager 8 million won, which was later raised to 10 million won by an appellate court.
Both courts also ruled Kim himself was not guilty of any charges, a finding that was also upheld by the Supreme Court.
BY MICHAEL LEE [email@example.com]