NATIONAL

Prosecutors raid police station over 2018 election-meddling claims

By Choi Si-young

Cheong Wa Dae denies it instigated probe to influence Ulsan mayoral election

  • Published : Dec 2, 2019 - 18:22
  • Updated : Dec 3, 2019 - 09:01

Prosecutors on Monday raided the Seocho Police Station, which was looking into the death of an investigator found dead Sunday amid a power abuse controversy. 

During the raid, they seized the cellphone and other belongings of the investigator.

Cheong Wa Dae Spokesperson Ko Min-jung (Yonhap)

Meanwhile, the presidential office has denied reports that an extralegal inspection team had been formed to instigate a probe into an incumbent Ulsan mayor running for reelection.

“The reports that Baek was running a separate inspection team or operations ungoverned by the law aren’t true. We hope to find out what pushed him to make a drastic choice (death),” the Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson said.

The spokesperson was referring to the death of an investigator who was on the team led by then Blue House Civil Affairs Secretary Baek Won-woo, who reported to his superior Cho Kuk, then senior presidential secretary for civil affairs.

Baek and his team are under suspicion of power abuse, in which he and his “special team” are alleged to have orchestrated a scheme to have the police investigate associates of Ulsan Mayor Kim Gi-hyeon on bribery charges with the aim of unseating Kim.

Local media outlets reported Monday that the special team visited Ulsan just before the 2018 local election to check on the investigation.

Following the news of a probe, Kim lost the election to Song Cheol-ho, a close friend of President Moon Jae-in. The prosecutors later cleared Kim’s associates of all charges after concluding that they were unfounded.

The police are looking into what led to the investigator’s death on Sunday just hours before he was due to appear before prosecutors for questioning regarding the power abuse suspicions.

He left a nine-page letter which included a request to Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl, saying “I apologize to you, but hope you take care of my family.”

“That shouldn’t have happened. We think that misunderstandings and conjectures regarding the work of his civil affairs office might have cornered him,” the Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson said.

Also on Monday, former Ulsan Mayor Kim said he will ask the Constitutional Court to review the constitutionality of the election law, which guarantees the right to contest the results of an election within 14 days.

He was of the opinion that the court will rule the provision unconstitutional and offer him a way to lodge what he considers a legitimate complaint.

The Constitutional Court accepts complaints regarding infringement of basic rights. Kim’s lawyer said the election law violates the right to a fair election, to file a lawsuit and to equality.

Then-commissioner of Ulsan Metropolitan Police Agency, Hwang Un-hah, accused of power abuse in investigating Kim’s associates, is also preparing to ask the court to look into his claim that police are violating his freedom to pursue happiness and choose a profession.

Now the Daejeon Metropolitan Police Agency commissioner, Hwang submitted his resignation, but the police are withholding his resignation offer as an investigation is underway.

Hwang is stepping down to prepare for next year’s general elections on the ruling Democratic Party’s ticket.

By Choi Si-young (siyoungchoi@heraldcorp.com)