MB could be named in illegal surveillance scandal

Posted on : 2012-03-29 14:20 KST Modified on : 2012-03-29 14:20 KST
Officials frightfully await findings of investigation into alleged illegal monitoring
 March 27. (by Kim Bong-gyu
March 27. (by Kim Bong-gyu

By Ahn Chang-hyun, Blue House correspondent

Despite a smooth finish to the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, which it had promoted at as the biggest diplomatic event in the nation’s history, there was little sign of celebration at the Blue House on Wednesday. While it was focusing on the summit over the past several days, the noose of allegations about illegal monitoring of civilians continued to gradually tighten.

The Blue House is being pressed, but has yet to give any official statement on the situation. Officials have merely repeated over the past several days that the Blue House would await the outcome of the prosecutors’ reinvestigation. The rationale for this is that allegations of its involvement in the monitoring are still based only on the claims of former action officer Jang Jin-su, and that anything it says might have critics charging it with presenting guidelines for the prosecutors’ investigation.

A key official expressed frustration with the situation by saying, “In fact, there is nothing we know. All the people suspected of being involved in the case have left the Blue House, including Chief of Staff Yim Tae-hee.”

The same official pointed to former employment and labor secretary Lee Young-ho, who recently held a press conference, and former public ethics support officer Lee In-kyu, who was arrested and indicted two years ago, as the individuals who really know what happened.

Blue House officials feel threatened, but have no means of diffusing the case. They are aware of popular speculation that President Lee Myung-bak is the figure behind the orders. This may account for the keenly felt sense of crisis there. Also vexing for the Blue House are the discovery of financial transactions during the case’s clean up, and the emergence of compelling charges of involvement by figures there.

For the moment, former administrative officer Choi Jong-seok, who is in a position to know the identity of the person behind the orders, is set to be summoned by prosecutors for questioning Thursday. Lee Young-ho is also expected to be summoned. Lee depicted himself as ringleader by claiming at a press conference to have ordered the destruction of materials. Even Blue House advisers are unable to predict just who the might be implicated next.

If the prosecutors‘ reinvestigation does find that the Blue House was behind the monitoring or evidence of it “doctoring” the first investigation, or if it comes to light that President Lee received direct reports, could damage the roots of the MB administration.

Noting that MB’s name is already coming up in connection with the case, a Blue House official said, “The water’s basically neck deep right now.”

Even if the reinvestigation does not get to the substance of the case, it remains a political albatross for the Blue House. Questions from the public will continue if the identity of Lee Young-ho’s superior is not revealed. The opposition is likely to demand a special prosecutors’ investigation or parliamentary audit regardless of the general election outcome, and the New Frontier Party has no real rationale for refusing these options. Even the Blue House is making similar predictions.

The situation now is one where the individuals implicated in Blue House allegations are stepping forward to explain themselves. Sources said Yim Tae-hee intended to clarify his views for the 100-day anniversary of his retirement Wednesday but postponed his plans out of concerns with the Nuclear Security Summit. Blue House public office discipline secretary Jang Seok-myung, who arranged for Jang Jin-su’s employment, told journalists Wednesday that he had “only asked an administrative officer in the office of the personnel secretary to ask about a job because a Prime Minister‘s Office employee told me a hometown friend was in trouble.”

“The request came from Mr. Jang’s side, and I certainly did not take the first steps to arrange things based on any other reason,” Jang added.


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