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Ex-minister, ex-presidential chief of staff indicted over artists blacklist

All News 14:40 February 07, 2017

SEOUL, Feb. 7 (Yonhap) -- A former culture minister and an ex-presidential chief of staff were indicted Tuesday over allegations they created a blacklist of cultural figures deemed critical of the Park Geun-hye administration, investigators said.

The probe team, led by Independent Counsel Park Young-soo, said ex-Minister Cho Yoon-sun and former top presidential secretary Kim Ki-choon have been charged with abuse of authority and coercion for allegedly interfering in ministry officials' duties by creating and managing the blacklist to deny those artists state support.

Cho served as the senior presidential secretary for political affairs from 2014 to 2015 and became the culture minister last year. Kim, who served as Park's top aide from 2013 to 2015, is known to have exerted significant influence on state affairs while in office.

The two have been in custody since last month. Cho, the country's first incumbent minister to be arrested while in office, resigned shortly after the court issued the arrest warrant.

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.

President Park has been named an accomplice in the alleged irregularities, according to investigators, though she is immune from prosecution while in office. Park, who is awaiting the Constitutional Court's decision on her impeachment, has flatly denied the allegations.

The probe team and the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae are in talks over when and how to carry out a face-to-face questioning of Park, which would be the first interrogation of an incumbent South Korean president in a criminal case. It is expected to take place later this week at the earliest.

Three other senior government officials, including former Culture Minister Kim Jong-deok, were indicted over similar allegations last week.

This combined photo, taken on Jan. 22, 2017, shows Kim Ki-choon (L), former presidential chief of staff to President Park Geun-hye, and ex-Culture Minister Cho Yoon-sun arriving at the office of the special investigation team to undergo questioning. They have been arrested over allegations of creating a blacklist of anti-government cultural figures while serving as presidential chief of staff and a senior aide, respectively, to Park. (Yonhap)


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