South Korea prosecutors turned away at presidential Blue House, report says

Jan. 13 (UPI) — South Korea’s prosecutors resumed investigations into corruption cases with alleged ties to the presidential Blue House on Monday, but may have been turned away.

Top prosecutors who replaced former investigators reshuffled upon the orders of new South Korean Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae continue their probe, but are being met with resistance, local television network JTBC reported Monday.

The new prosecutors in charge of scandals that may indicate members of the ruling government were interfering in 2018 regional elections are Lee Sung-yoon of the Seoul Central District and Bae Yong-won of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office.

Prosecutors were previously turned away by the president’s office on Friday, but returned with a warrant in hand on Monday. Prosecutors told JTBC they are “negotiating” with the Blue House using various means, including “by phone.”

Last week Choo’s decision to reshuffle personnel was met with strong criticism from the political opposition. Analysts said the move is strategic and geared toward pressuring South Korean Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-yeol to resign.

Yoon has yet to leave office and could be stepping up investigations. The prosecution has also summoned Song Byung-gi, Ulsan’s vice mayor for economic affairs, in connection to an investigation into former Ulsan Mayor Kim Ki-hyeon.

Kim lost the Ulsan mayoral election in 2018 after he was the target of police investigations. Kim’s chief secretary and Kim’s younger brother were under investigation for abuse of authority and for allegedly intervening in an apartment construction project by forcing the building firm to sign a deal for about $2.6 million with a designated supplier.

The suspicions were later dismissed as “unfounded” by Ulsan’s district prosecutors. Ulsan police are under investigation.

Newsis reported Monday Song is expected to step down from public office amid the probe. Song is “feeling the burden” of the probe, sources tell the local news service.

Local opinions of the case reflect a deep political divide in the country. Conservatives in South Korea who were aligned with ousted President Park Geun-hye have said the current administration of President Moon Jae-in interfered in local elections.

Ruling progressives have denied the charges.