The Supreme Court confirmed a two-year prison term for South Gyeongsang Province Gov. Kim Kyung-soo, a close aide to President Moon Jae-in, upholding the lower court ruling for colluding with Kim Dong-won, better known by his online alias “Druking,” to manipulate online opinion before and after the 2017 Presidential election.
It is a decision that will strip Kim of his governorship and potentially deal a political blow to President Moon.
It has been 35 months since Special Prosecutor Huh Ik-bum indicted Governor Kim in August 2018. Governor Kim was found guilty of manipulating 41.33 million clicks of "sympathy and non-sympathy" from December 2016 to January 2018 against 680,000 comments on Naver and Daum's portal sites.
Governor Kim, who lost his position as governor, is expected to be imprisoned in Changwon prison within a few days.
Opposition parties and opposition Presidential candidates said that the current government's legitimacy was even scratched, demanding President Moon’s apology to the case.
They argued that President Moon is the beneficiary of the manipulation of comments by Governor Kim and the Druking party.
"Isn't the Supreme Court ruling a significant flaw in President Moon's legitimacy," said Lee Joon-seok, the chairman of the main opposition People Power Party (PPP), in a telephone interview with Chosun Ilbo. "If Governor Kim committed serious illegal acts for President Moon, the beneficiary should express his position." Lee said.
He continued, "I hope the Democratic Party and Cheong Wa Dae will think about what they said about the National Intelligence Service (NIS) comment manipulation case in the past and judge how serious the situation is now."
Former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-yeol and former chairman of the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) Choi Jae-hyung said that defects have been revealed in the legitimacy of the regime and fabricating public opinion is the biggest threat to democracy.
Rep. Hong Joon-pyo of the PPP and Ahn Cheol-soo, chairman of the People Party, both of them competed in the last Presidential election with Moon, demanded a Moon’s apology.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Party said in a spokesman's comment, "We respect the Supreme Court's ruling." However, a Cheong Wa Dae official said, "There is no position of Cheong Wa Dae."
Noting that Moon’s victory was anticipated in the last Presidential election, democratic major Presidential contenders said, “Gov. Kim’s efforts to expose the truth were not acceptable. The demands for President Moon’s apology are regarded as a political attack.”
The 2017 Presidential election was held in a five-way race among Moon Jae-in, the then Presidential candidate of the Democratic Party; Rep. Hong Joon-pyo of the PPP; Ahn Cheol-soo, chairman of the People Party; Yoo Seung-min of Bareun Party; and Shim Sang-jeong of Justice Party. Moon won 41 percent of the vote, less than half of the votes, to become the President.
In this situation, suspicions of manipulation of comments by Governor Kim and his party have been raised since the inauguration of the current administration, and opposition parties have raised strong claims that manipulation of comments may have affected the Presidential election public opinion.