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South Gyeongsang Gov. gets 2-year jail term for opinion rigging

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South Gyeongsang Province Governor Kim Kyoung-soo, right, who was charged with involving himself in an online opinion rigging ahead of the 2017 presidential election, is taken to a custory after being sentenced to two years in prison in a trail at the Seoul Central District Court in Seocho-gu, Seoul, Wednesday.
South Gyeongsang Province Governor Kim Kyoung-soo, right, who was charged with involving himself in an online opinion rigging ahead of the 2017 presidential election, is taken to a custory after being sentenced to two years in prison in a trail at the Seoul Central District Court in Seocho-gu, Seoul, Wednesday.

South Gyeongsang Province Gov. Kim Kyoung-soo was sentenced to two years in prison Wednesday for his involvement in a massive rigging of Internet news comments related to President Moon Jae-in and the ruling Democratic Party.

The Seoul Central District Court handed down the verdict to the 51-year-old liberal politician, finding him guilty of all charges brought by Special Counsel Huh Ik-bum.

Gov. Kim was immediately taken into custody following the court ruling. If convicted by the Supreme Court, Kim will lose his governorship.

The court also sentenced Kim to a 10-month jail term, suspended for two years, for violating the law regarding political funds.

The court ruling comes hours after the guilty verdict meted out by the same bench to Kim Dong-won, a power blogger who was charged for colluding with the governor to carry out the illicit cyber operation.

South Gyeongsang Province Governor Kim Kyoung-soo arrives at the Seoul Central District Court in Seocho-gu, Seoul, Wednesday, as he is charged as a co-conspirator with Kim Dong-won. Yonhap
South Gyeongsang Province Governor Kim Kyoung-soo arrives at the Seoul Central District Court in Seocho-gu, Seoul, Wednesday, as he is charged as a co-conspirator with Kim Dong-won. Yonhap

The blogger, known by his nickname Druking, was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison. On the charge of the violation of the political funds law, Kim was sentenced to six months, suspended for one year.

They were indicted for running a computer program to artificially jack up the number of likes for Internet political comments to boost positive public sentiment for the then main opposition DP and its presidential candidate Moon ahead of the 2017 presidential election.

Moon won the snap election in May, which came after his predecessor Park Geun-hye's ouster from office by the Constitutional Court over an influence-peddling scandal.

The court ruled that Gov. Kim, who's affiliated with the DP, was deeply involved in the rigging project, from devising ways to do it to actually carrying it out. It found that the governor had watched a demonstration by the blogger's crew of a prototype designed to artificially jack up the number of comments.

Kim was regularly briefed by Druking on its progress and gave his team the final go-ahead for the operation, an indication that the governor had thorough understanding of the entire scheme and its potential consequences, the court ruled.

Kim Dong-won heads to the courtroom at the Seoul Central District Court in Seocho-gu, Seoul, Wednesday, for his trial on charges of carrying out an illicit cyberoperation to influence public opinion ahead of the 2017 presidential election. Yonhap
Kim Dong-won heads to the courtroom at the Seoul Central District Court in Seocho-gu, Seoul, Wednesday, for his trial on charges of carrying out an illicit cyberoperation to influence public opinion ahead of the 2017 presidential election. Yonhap

The court earlier ruled in the blogger's sentencing trial that Gov. Kim "benefited" from Druking's comments rigging as it helped create positive public sentiment for the DP.

The court also ruled that the blogger Kim masterminded the illegal cyber operation for his personal gain and that his operation provided substantial assistance to the DP in its election campaign.

A special counsel was launched in June last year to investigate the allegations. It demanded five years in prison for the governor and seven years for the blogger.

In Wednesday's ruling, the court also found the governor of violating the election law by attempting to procure a consul general job in Japan for an associate of Druking in return for carrying out the illicit cyber operations.

Gov. Kim has denied the charges.

The scandal became a hot-button political issue in South Korea as it implicated two influential politicians ― Gov. Kim and late liberal lawmaker Roh Hoe-chan.

Roh jumped to his death in July last year amid the special counsel's probe into an allegation that he took political funds from an aide to Druking. (Yonhap)




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