The prosecution arrested Ulsan Mayor Song Cheol-ho’s former election campaign manager over suspicions that he accepted illegal campaign funds from a local used car dealer in 2018.
Prosecutors are investigating allegations that the presidential office helped Song, a longtime friend of President Moon Jae-in, win the 2018 mayoral race by pressuring police to investigate his rival to sway public opinion.
The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office is questioning the former aide to Song, surnamed Kim, and the used car dealer, surnamed Jang, after arresting them on Monday.
Prosecutors found that Jang gave Kim 30 million won ($24,319) via an account that was not the official campaign account. They suspect the money was used for the campaign and that Song was aware of it.
Political funds can be received only through official accounts registered with the National Election Commission, and no one donor can contribute more than 5 million won.
Prosecutors have not ruled out the possibility that Jang paid the money in exchange for special favors.
A person close to Kim reportedly said it was a personal transaction between Kim and Jang, which had nothing to do with the election.
The prosecution obtained warrants to arrest Kim and Jang, who had refused to appear for questioning several times.
Kim, currently an adviser to the Ulsan branch of the ruling Democratic Party, was part of a committee that Song’s aides organized in 2017 to prepare for the 2018 election.
Former Ulsan Mayor Kim Gi-hyeon has claimed that aides to President Moon ordered the Ulsan police to raid his office over bribery allegations a few months ahead of the 2018 election, which negatively affected his campaign.
Police referred the case to the prosecution a month before the election, and prosecutors cleared Kim of all charges in March 2019.
Prosecutors have raided multiple government offices in the probe, including police headquarters and the Finance Ministry, and interrogated dozens of people including the mayor of Ulsan.
Song was indicted in January on charges of violating the election law, along with ex-presidential aides, a former vice mayor of Ulsan and a former Ulsan police chief.
By Kim So-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org