Photo: Han Dong-hun (right). Credit: Yonhap News.
The Public Prosecutors’ Office 검찰청 declined to prosecute Han Dong-hun 한동훈, nominee for Justice Minister 법무부장관 and key ally of president-elect Yoon Suk-yeol 윤석열 당선인 while charging prominent liberal politician Yu Si-min 유시민 with defamation against Han.
In February 2020, Lee Dong-jae 이동재, journalist for conservative cable news television Channel A 채널A, repeatedly contacted a jailed former executive of Value Invest Korea, a defunct private equity fund, to fabricate corruption claims against Yu Si-min. Lee threatened the executive that if he did not cooperate, he would have high-ranking prosecutors begin an investigation against his family.
Han, at the time a high-ranking prosecutor and right-hand man of then-Supreme Prosecutor Yoon Suk-yeol, was accused of being Lee’s contact in the PPO. (See previous coverage, “Stock Up, Stock Down.”) Han refused to cooperate with the investigation, at one point physically fighting off a prosecutor who tried to seize his smartphone. As Han continued to refuse to unlock his iPhone, the PPO ceased investigation on April 6 and declined to prosecute after 22 months of investigation.
The next day on April 7, the PPO charged Yu with one year in prison for criminal defamation, alleging that Yu falsely claimed Han was targeting him in his Youtube channel. In his closing statement, Yu gave reasons why he believed Han was behind the Channel A plot to frame him; Han threatened another legal action based on Yu’s statement in court. In response, the Democratic Party 민주당 pledged to pass a law that would strip all investigative authority from the Public Prosecutors’ Office.