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Moon’s former chief of staff questioned; claims probe politically motivated

Im Jong-seok, former chief of staff to President Moon Jae-in, walks into the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office in southern Seoul, Thursday. (Yonhap)
Im Jong-seok, former chief of staff to President Moon Jae-in, walks into the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office in southern Seoul, Thursday. (Yonhap)


A former chief of staff to President Moon Jae-in accused the prosecutors investigating him and several other former and incumbent presidential secretaries of doing so with a “clear purpose” other than justice.

Im Jong-seok, who served as the Cheong Wa Dae chief of staff from 2017-2019, made the remarks Thursday, before he faced a prosecutorial interrogation over his alleged role in a mayoral election-meddling scandal.

“The prosecution should exercise its authority in a more cautious and disciplined manner than other institutions,” said Im, who appeared at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office in Seoul in the morning.

Im is accused of pushing Lim Dong-ho, a former senior member of the ruling Democratic Party, to drop out of the 2018 local election race in order to help current Mayor Song Cheol-ho, a longtime friend of President Moon, win.

Prosecutors suspect that Im may have offered Lim the post of consul general or a top seat at a state-run company in exchange for dropping out and helping Song.

While denying such suspicions, Lim asserted that the probe is politically motivated, pointing out that the case was referred to the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office last November after the prosecution in Ulsan put it into cold storage for 20 months.

“I am sure the prosecution planned the investigation with a clear purpose,” he said.

The prosecution indicted Ulsan Mayor Song on Wednesday on charges of violating the election law. Several former presidential officials, including former Senior Presidential Secretary for Political Affairs Han Byung-do and former Presidential Secretary for Civil Affairs Baek Won-woo, were also indicted.

Main opposition Liberty Korea Party Chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn sought to link the ongoing probe to President Moon directly, saying he has to come forward and explain himself.

“The people do not want to hear the excuses of the presidential officials. It is time for President Moon to apologize to the public instead of avoiding responsibility,” he said.

By Park Han-na (hnpark@heraldcorp.com)
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