NATIONAL

[Newsmaker] ‘Choi Sun-sil was behind appointment of Vice Justice Minister Kim Hak-ui’

By Kim So-hyun
  • Published : Mar 7, 2019 - 15:28
  • Updated : Mar 7, 2019 - 17:34

Prosecutors reinvestigating the sex scandal of a former vice justice minister have obtained a statement that Choi Sun-sil, the infamous confidante of former President Park Geun-hye, had played a role in getting the ex-vice minister appointed.

Kim Hak-ui, who resigned over a sex-for-favors scandal six years ago, had faced multiple charges including rape, bribery and narcotics use, but was cleared of the charges in 2013. Video footage appearing to show intimate encounters between Kim and others at a vacation house had gone viral at the time.


(Yonhap)

The inquiry team recently questioned Park Gwan-cheon, who handled personnel verification under the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs in 2013.

Park reportedly said the presidential office had known about the existence of the footage before appointing Kim as vice justice minister, but went ahead with the appointment because of Choi, who knew Kim’s wife.

Based on Park’s statements, the inquiry team sought to interrogate Choi, who is in jail, but Choi refused to speak with them.

The senior presidential secretary’s office in 2013 also tried to learn about the investigation into Kim at the National Forensic Service, possibly to verify whether the figure in the footage was Kim.

A construction contractor named Yoon Joong-cheon, who had plied high-ranking officials including Kim with sexual services at his vacation home, told the inquiry team on Jan. 28 that he “gave tens of millions of won” to former prosecutor general Han Sang-dae.

The inquiry team said in a press release Monday that police omitted some 30,000 items of “digital evidence” as they referred Kim’s case to the prosecution in 2013, stoking backlash from the police officer who had investigated the case at the time.

Meeting with reporters at the National Police Agency on Wednesday, the officer, who is now a senior superintendent, refuted the inquiry team’s claims.

About the inquiry team’s announcement that some 16,000 files restored from Yoon’s laptop and SD card memory had disappeared, the senior superintendent said the laptop was used by Yoon’s children, and the files were discarded because they were of no use.

A report that the files were of no value was sent to the prosecutor and police discarded them under the prosecutor’s command.

“The inquiry team was set up to address wrongdoings by the prosecution, and now it’s going after the police, which isn’t right,” the senior superintendent said.

“I wish they would refrain from actions that damage the honor and dignity of police officers who investigated the case with all their might.”

The warrant for the raid at the time had a note saying that only electronic information related to the charges should be printed or copied, and those unrelated to the charges must be promptly deleted or discarded, the senior superintendent said, adding that police acted accordingly.

When police send confiscated items to the prosecution, the prosecution goes through each and every item, even the number of toothpicks, and does not accept them if they do not match the reports, he said.

“If something is not right, they immediately call it to question. That’s what they do. But they didn’t do anything for six years,” he said.

(sophie@heraldcorp.com)