Photo: Democratic Party Floor Leader Park Hong-geun holds a press conference to denounce the prosecutors' raid of the party's headquarters. Credit: Democratic Party of Korea.
Prosecutors raided the Democratic Party 민주당 headquarters based on a tenuous allegation involving the Daejang-dong 대장동 real estate scandal. Prosecutors from the Seoul Central District Prosecutor’s Office 서울중앙지방검찰청 raided the office of Kim Yong 김용, deputy chief of the Institute for Democracy 민주연구원, a think tank of the Democratic Party whose offices are located within the party’s headquarters.
This was the first time since the end of the Park Chung-hee 박정희 dictatorship in 1979 that the government has sought to raid the offices of the main opposition party.
In the first raid attempt on October 19, Democratic Party lawmakers physically blockaded the headquarters, arguing the raid was pretextual as Kim had been working for the think tank for only three days and could not have left any evidence in the office. The Democratic Party also offered to voluntarily produce the documents that the prosecutors purportedly sought. After eight hours of standoff, the prosecutors retreated, citing “safety concerns.” On October 24, however, the prosecutors returned in plain clothes, and executed the search warrant after they had entered the building.
Meanwhile on October 22, Kim Yong was arrested on charges of receiving KRW 800b (USD 560k) in bribes from Nam Uk 남욱, one of the ringleaders of the Daejang-dong real estate scandal – a hot-button issue during the presidential campaign that involved a development in Seongnam city 성남시, of which the Democratic Party candidate (and now the party chairman) Lee Jae-myung 이재명 was the mayor. (See previous coverage, “Daejang-dong Scandal Revisited.”) Lee proposed a special prosecution investigation, noting that President Yoon Suk-yeol 윤석열 is more implicated than himself in the scandal. The ruling People Power Party 국민의힘 rejected the offer.
Meanwhile, former Defense Minister Seo Uk 서욱 전 국방부장관 and former chief of the Coast Guard Kim Hong-hee 김홍희 전 해양경찰청장 were arrested in connection with the response to North Korea’s September 2020 killing of a South Korean civilian. On October 21, Seoul Central District Court 서울중앙지방법원 granted prosecutors’ petition to arrest two Moon Jae-in 문재인 administration officials, based on the allegation that they fabricated the narrative that the civilian, a minor Fisheries Ministry official, was attempting to defect into North Korea.
Previously, the Moon administration had determined the South Korean civilian was attempting to defect based on intercepted transmission among North Korean soldiers. In a legislative audit conducted last week, chief of the Coast Guard Jeong Bong-hun 정봉훈 해양경찰청장 repeatedly refused to either confirm or deny whether the civilian was attempting to defect. In this week’s legislative audit, Defense Minister Lee Jong-seob 이종섭 국방부장관 refused to answer when asked if the intelligence reports indicated that the civilian was attempting to defect.
The Public Prosecutors’ Office 검찰청 also summoned former presidential chief of staff Roh Yeong-min 노영민 전 대통령 비서실장, and is planning to summon former National Security Advisor Seo Hun 서훈 전 국가안보실장 and former head of the National Intelligence Service Park Ji-won 박지원 전 국가정보원장. The ruling People Power Party 국민의힘 said in a statement: “It is now time for President Moon to answer.”