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Presidential office voices strong regret over prosecution raid

All News 20:12 January 10, 2020

SEOUL, Jan. 10 (Yonhap) -- The presidential office Cheong Wa Dae on Friday expressed strong regret over a prosecution raid on one of its divisions as part of an ongoing probe into an election-meddling case involving a presidential confidant.

Earlier in the day, the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office sent a team of investigators to the presidential unit that handles policies related to support for provincial governments.

The presidential office said it could not cooperate with the investigators as the prosecution did not specify the documents they aimed to secure.

"Cheong Wa Dae expresses strong regret over the prosecution launching a 'stunt' investigation," Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson Ko Min-jung said.

Direct search of the presidential office is not allowed under criminal law as it is designated as a special national security facility. The presidential office usually provides materials requested by the prosecution with a court-issued search and seizure warrant.

"The warrant brought by the prosecution today did not specify the object of seizure ... The warrant only states 'all crime-related materials,'" Ko said.

This photo shows the entrance of the presidential compound Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Jan. 10, 2020. Prosecution investigators raided a division of the presidential secretariat as part of an ongoing probe into an election-meddling case involving a presidential confidant. (Yonhap)

The raid was aimed at securing evidence related to allegations that presidential officials conspired to help Mayor Song Cheol-ho of Ulsan, 400 kilometers southeast of Seoul, win an election in June 2018, in which he beat then-mayor Kim Gi-hyeon, who ran as the main opposition Liberty Korea Party candidate.

Investigators were reportedly focusing on finding links between the presidential unit and Song's campaign pledge to build a public hospital in Ulsan on suspicions that some officials helped design the mayor's election pledges.

The election-meddling allegations triggered a massive investigation after former mayor Kim claimed that the Ulsan Metropolitan Police Agency deliberately raided his office a few months ahead of the election and that the presidential office was behind the move.

Kim alleged that some presidential officials compiled a document on bribery allegations involving his confidants based on tips from the city's Vice Mayor Song Byung-gi, which led to the raid that negatively affected his election campaign.

The raid marks the second search of Cheong Wa Dae in a month. In December, prosecutors searched the presidential office in connection with another probe into an alleged cover-up of an inspection into an ex-vice mayor who faces bribery charges.

Prosecutors were seeking to secure evidence on why a special inspection into the former Busan vice mayor was abruptly suspended, leading him to avoid punishment for an unknown reason and become the port city's vice mayor in 2018.

mlee@yna.co.kr
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