Opposition party protests investigation into lawmaker over budget records leak

SEOUL, Sept. 21 (Yonhap) -- Prosecutors raided the homes and offices of three aides to a veteran opposition lawmaker Friday over allegations that the lawmakers and his aides accessed and downloaded digital records of government expenditures without authorization.

The lawmaker, Shim Jae-chul, and his Liberty Korea Party (LKP) reacted angrily to what they called political suppression. The lawmaker said his aides discovered documents about illicit spending by those who accompanied President Moon Jae-in on an overseas trip.

Investigators from the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office searched the aides' homes and offices in the National Assembly, as well as the Korea Public Finance Information Service (KPFIS) in central Seoul.

The secretaries downloaded a large amount of information via an online network run by KPFIS.

The Ministry of Economy and Finance lodged a complaint against the fifth-term lawmaker and the aides for illegally accessing and collecting the documents.

The lawmaker has denied the allegations, saying his aides were authorized to access the system as part of a parliamentary audit of the ministry. He filed a complaint against the government for false accusation.

Shim said Friday the documents included those related to some delegates who who used government credit cards for personal expenses while on the president's overseas trip.

The presidential office explained later that Shim's claim was a result of his misunderstanding stemming from differences in Korean and international Standard Industry Code numbers.

The conservative LKP denounced prosecutors' raid as a "grave suppression" of an opposition party, vowing efforts to tackle the situation with all means available.

"It was an unprecedented move during the regular parliamentary session," Kim Byong-joon, the interim leader of the LKP, told reporters.

"On top of suppressing an opposition party, prosecutors are muzzling a lawmaker whose basic activity is to collect information for a parliamentary probe, hampering the spirit of representative democracy," he claimed.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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