January 18, 2017 11:28
Independent counsel Park Young-soo on Tuesday questioned former presidential chief of staff Kim Ki-choon and Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Cho Yoon-sun over a blacklist of artists "hostile" to the government.
Kim is charged with ordering the list of nearly 10,000 cultural figures compiled, and Cho with aiding and abetting him when she was a Cheong Wa Dae secretary and of lying about it under oath in the National Assembly.
The issue is a fresh sideshow in the snowballing corruption scandal that has brought down President Park Geun-hye. The counsel's team is also investigating suspicions that Park herself was involved.
Kim is accused of compiling and enforcing the list after criticism of the Park administration mounted following the 2014 ferry disaster that killed more than 300 people.
Following the tragedy, various civic groups held a series of protests criticizing the government's handling of the tragedy, noting that Park was nowhere to be found for seven hours while rescue efforts went badly awry.
The counsel's team is also investigating evidence that Kim forced three ministry officials who opposed the blacklist to resign.
Cho is suspected of a key role in compiling the list while she was senior presidential secretary for political affairs from 2014 to 2015. Both Kim and Cho deny the charges, but the counsel is considering seeking arrest warrants for both.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for counsel said, "We plan to carry out a face-to-face interview with Park by February at the latest." He said the counsel plans to wrap up most of the investigations before then.
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