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(LEAD) Office of opposition lawmaker searched in widening probe into political meddling scandal

National 11:58 September 10, 2021

(ATTN: UPDATES with more info from 6th para; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, Sept. 10 (Yonhap) -- The state anti-corruption investigative body on Friday raided the office of an opposition lawmaker in a widening probe into a political meddling scandal allegedly involving ex-Prosecutor General and leading presidential contender Yoon Seok-youl.

A team of prosecutors and investigators from the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO) searched the office of Rep. Kim Woong of the main opposition People Power Party (PPP) at the National Assembly in western Seoul earlier in the morning.

Kim has been pinpointed as a key man in the snowballing suspicions that Yoon, while serving as prosecutor general, prodded the main opposition party to lodge criminal complaints against pro-government figures ahead of the parliamentary elections in April last year to possibly influence the polls.

The suspicions emerged on Thursday last week when online news outlet Newsverse reported a ranking prosecution official close to Yoon provided the party with two letters of official complaints to be filed against three pro-government figures and several other journalists just ahead of the elections via Rep. Kim, a prosecutor-turned-lawmaker.

Yoon resigned from office in March this year and joined the PPP as the front-running conservative presidential contender.

This photo provided by the office of Rep. Kim Woong of the main opposition People Power Party shows investigators from the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials combing through the lawmaker's office at the National Assembly in Seoul on Sept. 10, 2021, as part of a probe into a political meddling scandal allegedly involving one of the PPP's presidential contenders and ex-Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

At around the same time in the morning, the CIO also launched a search into the office and the house of Son Jun-sung, currently human rights supervisor at the High Prosecutors Office in the southern city of Daegu, who is reported to have conveyed the letters in question to Kim while serving as chief investigation intelligence official under Yoon.

"Having booked those who are involved, we opened the investigation today in order to get to the bottom of the allegations," a CIO official said.

This photo provided by the National Assembly press corps shows Rep. Kim Woong of the People Power Party speaking to the media during a press conference on Sept. 8, 2021, at the National Assembly in Seoul. (Yonhap)

Yoon has flatly dismissed the scandal as a ruling party-led "political plot" to derail his candidacy. But the scandal has been roiling his campaign as it braces for the PPP's primary to pick its sole candidate to run in the March 9 presidential election.

Led by floor leader Rep. Kim Gi-hyeon, a group of PPP lawmakers visited Kim's office under search and protested the probe as designed to crack down on the opposition party.

"Having dragged its feet on matters raised by the opposition party, (CIO) is moving like lightning to conduct a raid on an issue raised by the ruling party side," Kim protested, saying the raid on the lawmaker is "a serious act of persecuting the opposition party."

pbr@yna.co.kr
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