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(LEAD) Busan mayor charged with election law violation

All News 17:54 October 06, 2021

(ATTN: ADDS details in paras 7-13)

BUSAN, Oct. 6 (Yonhap) -- Busan Mayor Park Heong-joon was indicted Wednesday for making false statements during his campaign for the April by-election.

In the run-up to the vote, news reports claimed Park was involved in the National Intelligence Service (NIS)'s surveillance of environmentalists who campaigned against a major river restoration project in 2009, when he was the public relations chief for then President Lee Myung-bak.

Park, affiliated with the main opposition People Power Party (PPP), denied the allegation.

An NIS report submitted later to a ruling party lawmaker suggested that Park was briefed by the spy agency on its inspection of the activists and measures to fend off their movement.

The Busan District Prosecutors Office indicted Park on charges of violating the election law, wrapping up its investigation prompted by a complaint filed by the ruling Democratic Party (DP) in July.

The prosecution in the southeastern port city did not charge the professor-turned-politician on other suspicions raised by his opponents in connection with his properties and his daughter's university admission.

This undated file photo shows Busan Mayor Park Heong-joon. (Yonhap)

After the indictment was announced, the DP demanded the mayor apologize and resign.

Park once again denied his involvement in the NIS surveillance and slammed what he called a politically motivated investigation.

"This is a collusion by NIS Director Park Jie-won and the DP to get rid of an opposition mayor ahead of next year's presidential election and local elections," Lee Seong-kweun, political affairs advisor to Park, said in a statement on behalf of him.

"The indictment is not based on facts and legal principles but imagination and presumption," he said.

Meanwhile, prosecutors who investigated Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon on the same charges decided not to indict him.

Oh, also affiliated with the conservative PPP, has been probed for allegedly spreading false information during the by-election campaign about a scandal-plagued urban development project and his participation in right-wing street rallies.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office said his statements do not constitute to an election law violation because he made the remarks in the process of refuting allegations raised against him, not intending to mislead voters.

Park and Oh took office in April after scoring landslide victories against their DP rivals in the by-elections. Their terms end in June 2022.

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