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(LEAD) LKP submits bills for special probes into opinion rigging scandal, controversy over ex-FSS chief

All Headlines 17:06 April 17, 2018

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with LKP's special probe bill; TRIMS; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, April 17 (Yonhap) -- The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) on Tuesday submitted two bills aimed at launching separate independent counsel probes into an online opinion rigging scandal and a controversy surrounding a former financial watchdog chief.

Party officials said that 110 of the total 116 LKP lawmakers signed the bills, vowing to determine the truth behind the two cases that have posed a dispiriting setback to the ruling Democratic Party ahead of the June local elections.

Three suspects, once affiliated with the ruling party, have been detained for allegedly using a computer program to jack up the number of "like" or "feel the same way" clicks for comments critical of the government on news stories carried by the online portal Naver.

They reportedly told police that they wanted to make it look like conservatives manipulated online opinions as they tried to test the program. The leader is a blogger, surnamed Kim, who goes by the alias "Druking."

The scandal has hit the ruling camp hard following revelations that DP Rep. Kim Kyoung-soo, considered one of the closest people to President Moon Jae-in, has known and communicated with Druking since 2016. The lawmaker has denied involvement in the alleged rigging attempts.

Another special probe bill targets Kim Ki-sik who offered to resign Monday as the governor of the Financial Supervisory Service.

Kim has been under fire for three overseas trips he made as a lawmaker in 2014 and 2015 with funds from institutions under the oversight of his parliamentary financial committee. The LKP has argued that the trips could amount to bribes.

Kim's resignation came after the state election watchdog concluded that he breached the law in 2016 when he donated money to a lawmakers' association that he led.

President Moon had pledged to sack him if any illegality was found in his past acts, including the so-called "self donation" and his suspect overseas trips.

"Truth can be revealed only through a special prosecutor investigation," Hong Joon-pyo, the LKP leader, wrote on Facebook. "We will stake all National Assembly proceedings to get to the bottom of this case linked to the administration's legitimacy."

Hong Joon-pyo, the leader of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, speaks during a forum related to constitutional revision at the National Assembly in Seoul on April 17, 2018. (Yonhap)

Hong said an independent investigation is indispensable as police and the prosecution cannot conduct thorough probes into the case involving top administration officials. He accused police of trying to get Rep. Kim off the hook without sufficient investigation.

Members of the LKP launched an indefinite sit-in protest in front of the main National Assembly building to call for an independent investigation and denounced the way the Moon administration runs state affairs, including the embarrassing resignation of Financial Supervisory Service chief Kim.

Ahn Cheol-soo, a co-founder of the minor opposition Bareunmirae Party, also called for a special investigation.

"We need to appoint a special prosecutor as early as possible because even President Moon Jae-in's involvement is suspected," he told reporters at the National Assembly, pointing out that manipulation of online comments happened during last year's presidential election.

Some of Ahn's party colleagues visited the Supreme Prosecutors' Office to call for a through probe into the opinion rigging case.

"It is a grave crime that has shaken the foundation of the country's democracy," Kim Dong-cheol, the minor party's whip, said.

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