Ex-S. Korean officials charged over blacklist

Former culture minister Cho was formally charged yesterday over the creation of a "blacklist" of more than 9,000 artists who voiced criticism of impeached President Park.
Former culture minister Cho was formally charged yesterday over the creation of a "blacklist" of more than 9,000 artists who voiced criticism of impeached President Park.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Park's former minister and top aide accused of having blacklist of artists critical of her

SEOUL • South Korea's special prosecutor has indicted a former culture minister and a former top aide to President Park Geun Hye on charges of abuse of power, coercion and perjury for their role in drafting a blacklist of dissenting artists, a spokesman said.

Mr Lee Kyu Chul, spokesman for the special prosecutor's office investigating the scandal, told a briefing yesterday that former culture minister Cho Yoon Sun, and a former presidential chief of staff, Kim Ki Choon, had been indicted.

"The special prosecutor's office has indicted Kim Ki Choon, Cho Yoon Sun... for abusing power and coercion by making artists and entertainers and organisations with different opinions from the government excluded from support," Mr Lee said.

Both Cho, who last month became the first sitting member of Ms Park's administration to be arrested in connection with the scandal, and Kim denied the existence of a blacklist, or playing a role in drawing one up, though Cho later said she had heard of such a list.

The presidential Blue House has also denied that a blacklist existed. The special prosecutor's office said the government and state entities used the blacklist as a "guideline" to penalise artists and censor content.

The existence of the blacklist - targeting more than 9,000 artists in literature, movie, music, theatre, fine arts and dance - sparked widespread anger. The list reads like a who's who of Seoul's art scene and also includes those who criticised or satirised Ms Park's father, the late strongman Park Chung Hee, who ruled from 1961 to 1979 with an iron fist and imposed ruthless censorship of the arts.

The culture ministry said last month artists deemed critical of Ms Park had been put on the list and excluded from government support. It apologised for what it said had been a systematic effort to sideline Ms Park's critics.

The indictments are the latest twist in a corruption scandal that has gripped the country for months and led to the impeachment of Ms Park by Parliament in December.

A constitutional court is reviewing the impeachment vote. If upheld, Ms Park will have to leave office and an election will be called.

She has been accused of allowing a friend, Choi Soon Sil, to exert inappropriate influence over state affairs. Choi is accused of colluding with Ms Park to pressure big businesses to contribute to non-profit foundations backing Ms Park's initiatives. Both have denied wrongdoing.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 08, 2017, with the headline 'Ex-S. Korean officials charged over blacklist'. Print Edition | Subscribe