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(2nd LD) Ex-chief of staff to Moon quizzed by prosecution over election-meddling row

All News 16:07 January 30, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS reaction from former Ulsan mayor in last 3 paras)

SEOUL, Jan. 30 (Yonhap) -- Im Jong-seok, former chief of staff to President Moon Jae-in, was questioned by the prosecution on Thursday over his alleged role in an intervention in the 2018 local elections.

The prosecution is looking into allegations that the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae intervened in an Ulsan mayoral election to help Song Cheol-ho, a long-time friend of Moon, win the seat.

Im, who served as the Cheong Wa Dae chief of staff from 2017-2019, is suspected of having pressed a ruling party official to give up his bid for the Ulsan mayoralty so that Song could run instead.

Im claimed the prosecution investigation is politically charged and said that the truth cannot be fabricated.

"Can you really prove the allegations that I intervened in the Ulsan local elections? If you don't, will someone apologize and take responsibility for that?" Im said to reporters upon his arrival at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office in southern Seoul.

Im Jong-seok (C), former chief of staff to President Moon Jae-in, answers questions from reporters on Jan. 30, 2020, as he appeared at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office in southern Seoul for questioning over allegations that he intervened in the 2018 local elections. (Yonhap)

Former Ulsan mayor Kim Gi-hyeon has claimed that Cheong Wa Dae ordered police in the southeastern city to deliberately raid his office a few months ahead of the election for a probe into corruption allegations by his aides.

Kim, who was then seeking reelection as a candidate of the main opposition, said that the police investigation influenced the outcome of the election.

Song, a confidant of Moon, was the flag bearer of the ruling Democratic Party (DP) and eventually won the local elections.

The prosecution indicted Ulsan Mayor Song on Wednesday on charges of violating an election law. Several former presidential officials were also indicted, along with a former Ulsan vice mayor and an ex-chief of the police agency in the city.

The indictment came amid tensions between the prosecution and Cheong Wa Dae following the replacement of senior prosecutors in charge of a probe into scandals involving ex-Justice Minister Cho Kuk and some presidential officials.

Meanwhile, Song condemned the prosecution's indictment as the outcome of what he called a politically charged, distorted investigation.

"I am angry at the prosecution's distorted probe that has political purposes and its reckless indictment," the mayor said at a press conference at the city hall in Ulsan, 414 kilometers southeast of Seoul.

"I am flatly denying the allegations," Song said, vowing to let the truth be revealed in court.

In a separate press conference, Kim, the former Ulsan mayor, urged Song to immediately resign while calling the 2018 local elections a rigged poll.

"The prosecution should step up its investigation into the scandal," Kim said.

Kim claimed that the truth should be clarified even through a special counsel probe if Cheong Wa Dae and the justice ministry seek to thwart the prosecution's investigation into the case.

Ulsan Mayor Song Cheol-ho speaks at a press conference on Jan. 30, 2020, at the city hall in Ulsan, some 414 kilometers southeast of Seoul after he was indicted on charges of violating an election law in an election-meddling scandal. (Yonhap)


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