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Spy agency allegedly involved in making blacklist

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By Kim Bo-eun

The independent counsel team is looking into suspicions that the nation's spy agency was involved in the creation of a blacklist of artists critical of the government in its widening investigation of the scandal surrounding President Park Geun-hye and her confidant Choi Soon-sil.

Confiscated email and text message records showed that officials of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) were in contact with Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism officials regarding the blacklist of artists allegedly drawn up by Cheong Wa Dae to restrict their work.

The counsel team secured the records after raiding the offices and homes of ministry officials in Seoul and Sejong last month.

It also found evidence that NIS officials had frequently visited the ministry in Sejong. A ministry official told the team that he had been ordered to tell them about issues among artists' groups.

The team is looking into whether the agency's involvement in making the list constitutes an abuse of its authority.

There are also allegations that the NIS had been monitoring the activities of leftist groups and reporting them to Cheong Wa Dae, which then added the groups to the list and handed it over to the ministry.

Former Vice Culture Minister Cho Hyun-jae reportedly told the counsel team he had seen an NIS report which said "control must be exercised over progressive culture and arts groups," during his term from 2013 to 2014.

Earlier this week, the team also raided the home of Lee Byung-ki, a former presidential chief of staff and former NIS chief. The team believes Lee, who served as chief of staff from February 2015 to May 2016 as Kim Ki-choon's successor, was also involved in the creation of the blacklist. Both Lee and Kim are expected to be summoned for questioning soon.

Meanwhile, the team secured testimony from Kim So-young, a former presidential secretary for culture and sports, that Cheong Wa Dae's office of education and cultural affairs had drawn up the list which was then given to the culture ministry.

This is the first testimony from someone within Cheong Wa Dae that acknowledges the presidential office's role in creating the blacklist.

In addition, the team found the list not only contained progressive figures and entities but also those who were against plans pushing Choi's interests.

In the meantime, the local daily Kyunghyang Shinmun reported poet Won Jae-hoon was removed from his position as a lecturer for a humanities program of a culture ministry-affiliated institution because he had voiced opposition to the Park administration's plan for the state-authored history textbook.

The poet told the newspaper that the Publication Industry Promotion Agency of Korea explicitly told him he was cut due to his opposition to the plan.

Kim Bo-eun

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