Police chief vows thorough investigation of opinion rigging scandal

SEOUL, The police will continue to thoroughly investigate the opinion rigging scandal involving a former ruling party lawmaker, the country's police chief said Monday, hours after the parliament decided to appoint an independent counsel to look into the scandal.

"The police are somewhat ashamed in that the investigation should have been ended by the police but will now lead to the appointment of a special counsel. We will continue on with the investigation until the launch of the special counsel," National Police Agency Commissioner Lee Cheol-seong said in a meeting with reporters.

The remarks came shortly after the National Assembly passed a proposal to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the opinion rigging scandal that the main opposition Liberty Korea Party claims may have led to the election of President Moon Jae-in.

A local blogger, known by his nickname Druking, is suspected of manipulating comments on Internet news stories in an effort to sway public opinion in favor of the ruling Democratic Party and President Moon.

The suspect, currently in custody, claims to have developed and launched the opinion rigging program under the tacit consent of former ruling party lawmaker Kim Kyoung-soo, who stepped down last week to run for governor of South Gyeongsang Province in the June 13 local elections.

Kim has strongly denied the allegation, only admitting to having met Druking on several occasions.

Recent reports have also revealed that Druking had met another confidant of President Moon, Song In-bae. Song has admitted to meeting Druking at least four times but denies any prior knowledge of the opinion rigging scandal.

The national police chief said he or police investigators had simply been unaware of the meetings between Song and Druking, dismissing the possibility of the police intentionally leaving out ruling party or government officials from its investigation.

The presidential office Cheong Wa Dae earlier said it has looked into the case involving Song, currently serving as a senior secretary to the president.

A ranking Cheong Wa Dae official said Monday that the internal probe had found no evidence of illicit deals or transactions between the presidential secretary and those suspected of rigging public opinions and that the case was thus dropped.

Following the recent reports implicating Song in the potentially explosive scandal, the case was belatedly reported to Moon, who ordered his chief of staff Im Jong-seok to transparently disclose every detail to the public, the official told reporters, while speaking on condition of anonymity.

In the internal probe conducted April by the office of the presidential secretary for civil affairs, Song denied any prior knowledge of any systematic attempts to manipulate public views on the president or his party, according to the official.

Song has also admitted to accepting 2 million won (US$1,840) from Druking and his colleagues in fees for his lectures, but said he has not met or talked to any of them since he began working at Cheong Wa Dae in May 2017, the official added.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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