Link between opposition party and indictment incitement becoming clearer

Posted on : 2021-09-08 17:58 KST Modified on : 2021-09-08 18:12 KST
Allegations of inciting criminal complaints by People Power Party representatives continue to mount, but inaction by party leadership is leaving those implicated in the lurch
Indictment United Future Party delivered to supreme prosecutor’s office in August 2020.
Indictment United Future Party delivered to supreme prosecutor’s office in August 2020.

A criminal complaint submitted to prosecutors in August 2020 by the United Future Party (UFP, now the People Power Party) accusing Democratic Party lawmaker Choe Kang-wook of violating the Public Official Election Act was based on a draft provided by UFP, according to the author of the complaint.

The document was found to be nearly identical to the complaint lawmaker Kim Woong is alleged to have received from prosecutors and passed along to the UFP in April 2020.

But even as the connections become increasingly clear between the party and allegations that presidential contender and then-Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl incited the filing of the complaint, party leadership has been taking no action to get to the bottom of the situation.

Attorney: “I received draft from UFP, tweaked a few sentences”

According to the Hankyoreh’s investigation Tuesday, the author of the complaint submitted against Choe in August 2020 was an attorney and PPP legal advisory committee member surnamed Cho.

In a telephone interview with the Hankyoreh that day, Cho said they had “received something like a draft version from the party to edit.”

“After checking to see whether [the draft] was suitable legally for a written complaint indictment and looking at a few of the things that needed to be tweaked, I said, ‘I can take that,’” they added.

Since the incitement allegations were first raised, the PPP has consistently maintained that the party never received the document.

Appearing on CBS radio Tuesday, party leader Lee Jun-seok said, “Based on the initial investigation, no record exists of [the document] being received by the party.”

But the fact that the complaint officially submitted by the UFP in August 2020 was identical to the April document, apart from a few small matters of wording, suggests a stronger possibility that the draft version Cho claimed to have received was the same complaint document allegedly passed along by Kim Woong.

A comparison of the two documents by the Hankyoreh showed the section on criminal allegations to be nearly identical down to the use of grammatical particles, while the conclusion was the same apart from the inclusion of the words “previously examined.”

Responding to comments on the similarities between the April document and the complaint submitted against Choe, Cho said, “I edited the draft version. It was an outline, and I just tweaked some of the sentences.”

“I don’t know anything about things like how similar it is to the draft version,” Cho added.

When asked who wrote the draft, Cho said, “I don’t know. I just got it from the party.”

But while Cho claimed to have only polished a few sentences in a UFP document written in bullet point form, they were unable to provide a clear explanation on why the final complaint was virtually identical to the April draft.

PPP goes on defensive rather than clearing up facts

As allegations that lawmaker Kim Woong was involved in the incitement continue to escalate, the PPP leadership has taken more or less no action, leaving the matter of determining responsibility for investigators to establish without attempting any investigation of their own.

Even though both Kim — the individual accused of passing the document along — and the whistleblower are members of the PPP, the party has been standing by without any attempt to establish the facts.

After the allegations first surfaced, Lee Jun-seok suggested there would be a “party affairs audit” and the “creation of a candidate vetting team.” But speaking again a few days ago, he only mentioned hastening efforts to set up the vetting team, without talking about an audit.

In reference to the vetting team issue, senior spokesperson Heo Eun-a told the Hankyoreh, “There have been discussions within the Supreme Council about the need for a related organization.”

“The matter will be decided through Supreme Council discussions on Thursday,” she added.

PPP leadership does not appear to have attempted to hear from Kim, the figure accused of involvement in the incitement.

In his CBS radio interview Tuesday, Lee said, “For there to be a party affairs audit, there would need to be a record transferred to the secretariat, which you could describe as the party’s official organization, but there is no such record.”

Speaking about Kim, he said, “He’s difficult to meet with. We had brief conversations by telephone early on in this incident.”

“Kim is not ‘lying low.’ He’s said that he wants to increase his communication with the press, so we’re looking forward to that,” Lee said, suggesting that it was up to Kim to clear things up on his own.

Lee also talked about a meeting he had had the previous day with Yoon Seok-youl.

“Regarding the incitement allegations, Yoon himself said that his actions had been ‘above board’ and that there had been ‘nothing shameful,’” he said.

“Since there have been references to current procedures, the right approach would be for the CIO [Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials] to investigate,” he said.

Meeting with reporters the same day, PPP floor leader Kim Gi-hyeon said, “The term ‘inciting a criminal complaint’ is itself incorrect. We view it as something more like a ‘tipoff in the public interest.’”

“We have determined that there is absolutely nothing problematic,” he added.

Even party members say investigation should come first

Some PPP members had harsh words about the leadership’s passive approach when they should be attempting to tackle the situation with more urgency.

In a position statement Tuesday, third-term PPP lawmaker Kim Tae-heum said, “It’s irresponsible for Lee [Jun-seok] and the rest of the party leadership to stand idly by during this situation.”

“It is the role and responsibility of the leadership to protect presidential candidates. They need to begin an investigation into Rep. Kim Woong immediately so that this controversy can be quickly put to bed,” he said.

“If the investigation determines that there are issues, then it would be the responsible thing as a political party and the right thing by the public for them to impose stern disciplinary action and provide the public with a detailed explanation,” he added.

Appearing on an MBC radio program Tuesday, PPP Supreme Council member Kim Jae-won said, “The issue right now is [the allegation] that prosecutors passed along [the draft].”

“It’s not the tipoff that’s the issue, but the question of whether investigation intelligence was leaked, and whether [prosecutors] requested a complaint,” he continued, saying that there needed to be an “overall [examination] of whether that can be described as a ‘tipoff.’”

“As far as this issue is concerned, my question is whether our party can simply let things pass under the current circumstances, or whether we need to clarify the matter a bit more internally,” he said.

By Jang Na-rye, staff reporter

Editor’s note: Cho’s first name has been withheld for their privacy

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