Opposition parties clash over extension of opinion rigging probe

SEOUL, Opposition parties on Monday called for the extension of a special probe into an opinion rigging scandal as a high-profile provincial governor appeared for questioning about his alleged involvement in manipulating Internet comments to sway public opinion on key issues.

But the ruling Democratic Party (DP) defended South Gyeongsang Province Gov. Kim Kyoung-soo, accusing opposition parties of staging politically-charged attacks and claiming that Kim's innocence will be proven through the special investigation.

The exchange of barbs came as Kim appeared at the special counsel's office Monday on his suspected involvement in online comments manipulation led by a power blogger, known by the nickname Druking, to sway public opinions in favor of President Moon Jae-in.

Kim, a former DP lawmaker, was allegedly invited by the Druking team to see a demonstration of a computer program designed to rig online comments and gave tacit approval to continue the manipulation and let them brief him about it regularly.

Opposition parties claimed that Kim is an accomplice to Druking, raising the need to extend the probe.

The special counsel team, which was launched on June 27, was given 60 days for the investigation, with the possibility that it could be extended by another 30 days pending approval from President Moon Jae-in. The initial investigation is to end on Aug. 25.

"The team should also start its probe into presidential officials who are suspected to have colluded with aides to Druking," said Yoon Young-seok, a spokesman for the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP).

"Given the short period of time left, the probe should be extended to make the truth be disclosed. Parliament should also carry out its probe."

The minor opposition Bareunmirae Party (BP) claimed that the ruling party is trying to affect the probe into Kim by swaying public opinions.

"Druking hampered the basis of democracy. Kim is an accomplice to him," said Kim Dong-cheol, the chief of the BP's emergency panel to cope with the defeat of the June local elections.

The governing DP, meanwhile, claimed that special prosecutors are not investigating the scandal in a fair manner.

"The scandal was about irregularities by new election brokers. It was not a case that deserves a special probe, but as parties agreed to launch the special prosecutors' team, we have anticipated a fair probe into the scandal," Choo Mi-ae, the DP's chairwoman, said at a meeting of senior party members.

"But their improper activities drove Rep. Roh Hoe-chan to death, and Druking fooled the public by reversing his testimony after Roh's death," Choo said, referring to the suicide by an iconic progressive politician amid an illegal funds probe.

Roh jumped from an apartment building to his death last month amid allegations that he took illegal political funds from an aide to Druking.

"Opposition parties are only thinking about political gambits to extend the investigation," Choo said.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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