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Outside experts recommend probe into journalist, end probe on prosecutor

Lee Dong-jae. Yonhap
Lee Dong-jae. Yonhap

A panel of outside experts on Friday recommended that the probe into the journalist in a suspected case of collusion with a prosecutor be continued, while ending the investigation into the prosecutor connected to the case.

Lee Dong-jae, formerly a journalist for Channel A, and senior prosecutor Han Dong-hoon are alleged to have colluded to frame a leading liberal figure for corruption.

The high-profile case has drawn much public attention for driving Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae and Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl to lock horns over the fairness of the ongoing investigation that involves Yoon’s close associate, prosecutor Han Dong-hoon.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office has been investigating suspicions that former Channel A reporter Lee threatened Lee Cheol, the jailed former head of investment firm Value Investment Korea, to get information linking Rhyu Si-min to corruption. Rhyu is a liberal pundit with close ties to the Moon Jae-in administration.

The committee of 15 outside experts, randomly selected by the prosecution from its list of 150 professionals from various fields, examined written opinions submitted by the investigation team of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office, the reporter, the former head of the investment firm and the senior prosecutor. The group also was able to hear arguments from them.

The former journalist allegedly sent five letters to the businessman in February and March this year, claiming that if Lee Cheol did not comply in supplying condemning information on Rhyu, he could see to it that the prison term be extended.

The prosecution suspected that senior prosecutor Han was collaborating with the reporter to bring a false charge against Rhyu.

On July 17, the Seoul Central District Court issued a warrant to arrest the reporter on attempted extortion, citing substantial data for suspicion that “the suspect linked up with a high-ranking prosecutor to threaten the victim in order to achieve his certain goal for news coverage.”

By Park Han-na (