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(LEAD) Gov. Kim appears for special counsel's questioning in opinion rigging probe

All Headlines 10:12 August 06, 2018

(ATTN: UPDATES article throughout as Kim has appeared; REPLACES photo; RESTRUCTURES)

SEOUL, Aug. 6 (Yonhap) -- South Gyeongsang Province Gov. Kim Kyoung-soo appeared for questioning by special prosecutors Monday over his alleged involvement in massive online opinion rigging led by a power blogger.

He arrived at the special counsel's office in Gangnam, southern Seoul, at around 9:30 a.m. amid tight security set up to fend off any clashes.

The scandal centers on allegations that the power blogger Kim Dong-won, better known by his nickname Druking, massively manipulated comments on Internet news stories in an effort to sway public opinion on hot-button political issues in favor of the now ruling Democratic Party.

Kim, a former DP lawmaker who was elected governor in June's elections, allegedly communicated with Druking frequently through untraceable messenger apps.

Standing before a barrage of camera flashes, he again denied any wrongdoing.

"I, more than anyone else, called for the launch of this special probe," he told reporters. "I've said many times I will confidently cooperate with the investigation."

"I do ask once again that the special counsel uncover the truth and bring an end to the deepening political dispute."

The special prosecution team summoned him as a suspect on Friday. He faces possible charges of obstruction of business and violation of the election law.

Special investigators suspect that Kim worked with Druking's crew to artificially jack up the number of likes for Internet comments attached to news articles about the DP, then the opposition bloc, between 2016 and early 2017.

In November 2016, Kim was allegedly invited by the Druking team to see a demonstration of a computer program designed to rig comments, and he gave them tacit approval to carry out the alleged plan and let them brief him about it regularly.

Kim is also suspected of offering the position of the consulate general in the Japanese city of Osaka to Druking while asking for help in this year's elections.

He has denied these allegations, saying they are "a fiction."

Police dispatched some 500 officers from five squads to guard around the premises. They also set up a fence around where Kim stood before the press and guided passersby to walk along the outside.

South Gyeongsang Gov. Kim Kyoung-soo answers questions from reporters as he appears for a special counsel's interrogation over a massive opinion rigging scandal in Gangnam, southern Seoul, on Aug. 6, 2018. (Yonhap)

elly@yna.co.kr
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