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(LEAD) Arrest sought for minister, ex-presidential chief of staff over artist blacklist

All News 22:46 January 18, 2017

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details, date of court hearing in paras 7, 9; Minor edits)

SEOUL, Jan. 18 (Yonhap) -- South Korean investigators on Wednesday sought warrants to formally arrest the country's culture minister and a former presidential chief of staff over allegations the Park Geun-hye administration blacklisted cultural figures deemed critical of the government.

Minister Cho Yoon-sun and former presidential chief of staff Kim Ki-choon are being charged for abusing their authority, said the probe team looking into an influence-peddling scandal that led to the president's impeachment last month.

Cho served as the senior presidential secretary for political affairs from 2014 to 2015 and became the culture minister last year. Kim was the presidential chief of staff from 2013 to 2015.

The latest decision to seek the arrest of Cho and Kim came shortly after the investigation team questioned them for 21 hours and 15 hours, respectively, from Tuesday to early Wednesday.

The investigators suspect that the two were the masterminds behind the alleged creation and management of the blacklist intended to block artists critical of the government from receiving state support.

The list is known to have nearly 10,000 people on it, including author Han Kang, winner of the Man Booker International Prize in 2016, and director Park Chan-wook, who won the grand prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2004.

The investigation team's spokesman Lee Kyu-chul said last week "the creation and execution of the blacklist severely infringe upon the people's freedom of thought and expression."

Both Choi and Kim have been flatly denying the allegations raised against them.

The Seoul Central District Court will hold a hearing on Friday to review the legality of detaining the two suspects.

Lee earlier said they are investigating whether President Park was involved in the creation of the list.

The investigation team has been accelerating its probe, questioning and summoning a number of figures implicated in the scandal that broke out in late October.

This combined photo shows former presidential chief of staff Kim Ki-choon (L) and Culture Minister Cho Yoon-sun leaving the special prosecutor's office on Jan. 18, 2017, after submitting to hours of interrogations that began the previous day. The two are suspected of creating and managing an alleged blacklist of artists who were deemed critical of the Park Geun-hye administration. (Yonhap)

scaaet@yna.co.kr
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