Special counsel demands 5-year prison term for Gov. Kim over online opinion rigging

SEOUL, The special counsel asked a local court Friday to sentence South Gyeongsang Province Gov. Kim Kyoung-soo to five years in prison over his alleged role in online opinion rigging involving a power blogger.

Kim, 51, is accused of colluding with Kim Dong-won, better known by his nickname, Druking, to manipulate comments on news articles to benefit the ruling Democratic Party (DP), then the opposition party, in the runup to the 2017 presidential election.

Kim, a close aide to President Moon Jae-in, allegedly approved Druking and his crew's development and use of a computer program to artificially jack up the number of likes for Internet political comments.

Kim is also accused of violating the election law by attempting to procure a consular-general level job in Japan for an associate of Druking in return for carrying out illicit cyber operations. The governor has denied any involvement.

Requesting the prison term, special prosecutors said that Kim is a politician who carried out a deviant act that includes the mobilization of a private group engaged in illegal acts to win elections.

At the final hearing in the trial, Kim proclaimed his innocence, saying that he was not involved in the illegal online election campaigning.

"As a politician, I treated a Druking-led group of online supporters with sincerity. But (Druking and his crew) took advantage of my goodwill to increase their clout in the organization," Kim said.

The special investigators asked the court Wednesday to sentence Druking to seven years in prison for his role.

The special counsel defined the blogger's charges as "serious crimes that undermine the foundation of democracy and are therefore unacceptable."

The local court is expected to deliver verdicts on Kim and Druking on Jan. 25.

The scandal has become a hot-button political issue in South Korea as it has implicated two influential politicians Gov. Kim and late liberal politician Roh Hoe-chan.

Roh jumped to his death in July amid the special counsel's probe into an allegation that he took political funds from an aide to Druking.

Source: Yonhap news Agency

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