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[Newsmaker] Opinion rigging scandal feeds partisan bickering

A blogger at the center of an opinion-rigging scandal and his group, who have played up their role in President Moon Jae-in’s presidential campaign, are likely to continue causing political strife, even after an ongoing special investigation ends on Aug. 25.

An independent team of prosecutors are interrogating South Gyeongsang Province Gov. Kim Kyoung-soo, former chief spokesman for Moon’s presidential campaign, as part of a probe into allegations that he was involved in the manipulation of internet news comments led by the blogger known as Druking.

The special probe period can be extended once by 30 days, pending the president’s approval. The special counsel has yet to decide whether to request for an extension, but opposition parties have already begun calling for one.

“According to what we have seen in news reports about the special probe so far, it appears that there is no evidence to prove that Gov. Kim was involved, so I personally don’t see the need to extend the investigation,” Rep. Park Joo-min of the Democratic Party, a lawyer, told The Korea Herald.

“The previous special counsel probe into dozens of allegations against former President Park Geun-hye, for example, was not extended despite the wide breadth of the investigation due to opposition from the Liberty Korea Party.”

A series of news reports on Druking’s group continued throughout the special probe, which began in late June upon monthslong demands from opposition parties.

Dong A Ilbo, for instance, reported Friday that it obtained a short report on former presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo’s campaign strategy that was written by a group of Moon’s supporters led by the blogger Druking.

The conservative daily wrote that special investigators are looking into whether Druking’s group fed information on Ahn’s campaign strategy to Kim Kyoung-soo a month before the presidential election in May last year.

Kim Dong-won and South Gyeongsang Province Gov. Kim Kyoung-soo appear at the special counsel office in Seoul on Thursday. Yonhap
Kim Dong-won and South Gyeongsang Province Gov. Kim Kyoung-soo appear at the special counsel office in Seoul on Thursday. Yonhap

The five-page report said that Ahn’s camp was planning to question Moon’s pledge to reform chaebol after a key member of Moon’s party’s election planning team criticized a group supporting leukemia victims among workers at Samsung’s semiconductor factories, Dong A Ilbo wrote.

A member of Druking’s group surnamed Lee heard about this plan from the head of an agency that made promotional videos for Ahn’s campaign, and sent a report about their conversation to Druking, according to the newspaper.

Druking said he printed out the report and had it delivered to Kim’s former assistant surnamed Han, according to Dong A.

Gov. Kim has denied allegations of his involvement in Druking’s illegal acts, reiterating that the blogger was simply a “political supporter.”

Special investigators have been looking into allegations that Gov. Kim gave 1 million won ($888) in cash to Druking after the blogger demonstrated how a software ramps up the number of “likes” to certain comments on online news articles.

Druking, however, told special investigators that he did not receive the money, reversing his earlier claim to the police.

By Kim So-hyun (