Fate of Culture Minister and Former Presidential Chief of Staff Hangs in Court

Fate of Culture Minister and Former Presidential Chief of Staff Hangs in Court

SEOUL, Jan. 20 (Yonhap) -- A South Korean court held a hearing on Friday to decide whether to issue warrants to arrest the country's culture minister and a former presidential chief of staff over their suspected involvement in the blacklisting of cultural figures deemed critical of the conservative government.

   An independent counsel team, looking into an influence-peddling scandal involving President Park Geun-hye and her confidante, on Wednesday requested the warrants for Minister Cho Yoon-sun and former top secretary Kim Ki-choon on charges of abuse of authority and perjury.

   They attended the hearing at the Seoul Central District Court in the morning. The result is likely to come out late at night.

   "I will sincerely go through the court's review proceedings," Cho told reporters as she arrived at the probe team's office in Seoul before heading to the court. Kim declined to comment on questions from reporters.

   Cho and Kim were questioned for 21 hours and 15 hours, respectively, from Tuesday to early Wednesday over allegations that they masterminded the creation and management of the blacklist to deny dissident artists state support.'

They were among the closest aides to the beleaguered president. Cho served as the senior presidential secretary for political affairs from 2014 to 2015 and became the culture minister last year.

   Kim, who served as the presidential chief of staff from 2013 to 2015, is said to have exerted huge influence on state affairs beyond his position.

   They also face charges of making false statements under oath as both flatly denied the allegations during parliamentary hearings.

   The probe team declined to give details on when the list was drafted.

   The list is known to have nearly 10,000 people on it, including author Han Kang, winner of the Man Booker International Prize in 2016, and director Park Chan-wook, who won the grand prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2004.

   The investigation team's spokesman Lee Kyu-chul said last week, "The creation and execution of the blacklist severely infringe upon the people's freedom of thought and expression." 

   Lee said the team is now looking into whether President Park was involved in the creation of the list.'

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