What They Said is a regular series on the quotes Korea is talking about.
On September 2, Newsverse, an online news outlet launched in May 2021, published an exclusive report containing allegations against former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-yeol, a presidential candidate for the People Power Party. According to Newsverse, the then chief of investigative intelligence at the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, Son Jun-seong, had Kim Woong, a former prosecutor who had been running for a seat in the National Assembly at the time, file criminal complaints against pro-government figures ahead of the 2020 general election. The fact that Son is a close aide of former Prosecutor General Yoon led to speculation that Yoon himself had been behind the complaints.
On September 8, Kim Woong spoke on his position that he has no recollection of the matter at hand:
First, I hereby clarify that I did not write the complaint files, which have been reported on by a certain news outlet. … I have no connection to the reported complaints in this case. …
I would like to address the allegation that I received these complaint files from a prosecutor and delivered them to the [People Power] party. I do not remember if I received the complaint files in question, and there is no way to confirm it.
However, according to the screen captures published in the news article, I received the files from a person named Son and sent them to the party. If these documents are real, given these circumstances, it may be that I received the documents from Son and delivered them to the party. Yet some have suggested the possibility of [the documents] being manipulated and names being borrowed.
I do not have any records [of the incident], therefore I ask the authorities to clarify the truth as soon as possible by thoroughly investigating the informant’s cell phone and Prosecutor Son’s personal computer.
As I have already said in the two previous official statements, I was focusing on my election campaign during the official general election campaign period, so I did not even have the time to review the numerous documents and information I received. As a party member, I just forwarded them directly to the party so that they could review the documents.
With the former prosecutor general Yoon Seok-yeol also raising the possibility of the reported documents being manipulated, I believe that it would cause even greater confusion if I were to make speculative statements based on my simple memory without any physical evidence.
I hope that the authorities will make every effort to ascertain the substantive truth of this matter as soon as possible. I will cooperate to the best of my ability to reveal the facts.
I also strongly warn the ruling party and the government. Stop all your tactics to discredit the opposition party’s presidential candidates by raising various conspiracy theories on issues of an ambiguous nature.
— Kim Woong, National Assembly member for the People Power Party, September 8, 2021.
Seven hours later, People Power Party presidential candidate Yoon Seok-yeol held a press conference claiming that the allegations were political maneuvering to tarnish his reputation, planned by those who were scared of his winning the presidential election.
From my point of view, I have already said everything I have to say. But, looking at the current situation, it seems really pathetic to me that the Republic of Korea is going in this direction and that this kind of scheming and agitation happens at every election. So today, I stand before you.
There are things I want to say to the people, and there are also things I want to say to our established politicians. If you want to resort to political maneuvering in the future, prepare thoroughly and do it right. And if you want to raise an issue, do not hide behind online media or inmates. Lawmakers should not hide behind immunity—do it through a major media outlet that all Koreans know, and through a reliable person that the people can trust.
It is always the same, blatant scenario. Whether it is a paper document or a digital document, only when the source and author are confirmed can suspicions and issues be raised on credible grounds. Documents without them are so-called dubious documents. The people are being confused with these dubious documents. …
Call me to the National Assembly. I will confidently speak about my position. And I hope that the person who raised the suspicions will step forward instead of doing it in hiding, with the determination to take responsibility if the allegations are not true.
— Yoon Seok-yeol, a People Power Party presidential candidate, September 8, 2021.
On September 10, Jo Seong-eun, the former vice chair of the Election Committee of the United Future Party (currently People Power Party) had an exclusive interview with JTBC, stepping forward as a whistleblower. After the interview, she wrote on her Facebook page:
On September 10, 2021, on JTBC News, I revealed that I am the ‘public interest informant’ in the case of the ‘Supreme Prosecutor’s Office under Yoon Seol-yeol instigating the opposition party to file complaints on pro-government individuals.’ Since then, I have not received any messages from TV Chosun reporter Kim Jeong-u, but through [his] report, which has a clear intention, the case is heading in the wrong direction.
Moreover, I am watching the Yoon Seok-yeol campaign doing their best to smear [my reputation] to distort the nature of this case.
In the course of half a day, I have received over 400 calls from reporters, so I would like to say the following here.
The nature of this case is, in relation to me at least, a criminal case that was closed after April 3 – 8, 2020, and anything that came afterward cannot intervene in the aforementioned closed case.
In 2021, which is long after the above period, regardless of whether or not I have had a meal with certain people, there is no room for new facts to intervene in or be related to this criminal case.
And as I expressed on air yesterday, I submitted [the documents] to the investigating authorities myself at personal risk, in order to minimize the political interpretation of this case.
In addition, it is my understanding that [former] Floor Leader Park Jie-won has long been on the Legislation and Judiciary Committee, and is therefore acquainted with former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-yeol. So I did not even consider consulting him.
Because I had already expected this case to be framed as ‘manipulation’, a ‘case related to Choo Mi-ae’, a ‘case related to Park Jie-won’, to prevent such things from happening, I submitted all the documents to the authorities first and plan to submit additional ones.
I do understand the circumstances of the Yoon Seok-yeol campaign and those involved, who have nothing to say on the matter and therefore must make up whatever story they can, but if you continue to malign, slander, and defame me to distort the unwavering facts, I will actively submit additional evidence to the authorities to reveal the facts of this case as far as I am concerned and cooperate in the investigation to the best of my ability.
— Jo Seong-eun, whistleblower, September 11, 2021.