SEOUL-- Prosecutors on Monday indicted two former senior members of the minor opposition People's Party without detention over a fabricated tip-off about President Moon Jae-in's son used during the May election.
Wrapping up its monthlong probe, the prosecution concluded the party's leaders, including co-founder and presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo, were not involved in the scandal, which has thrust the centrist party into its worst crisis only over a year after its launch.
The Seoul Southern District Prosecutors' Office charged Kim Seong-ho and Kim In-won, who were in the election panel of the People's Party, with violations of the election law for disclosing the false information during the presidential campaign.
The minor opposition made a revelation three days before the May election that alleged a backdoor hiring of Moon Joon-yong by a public agency in 2006. It accused Moon, then presidential front-runner of the Democratic Party of exerting influence as a presidential secretary under the Roh Moo-hyun administration.
The prosecution believes they failed to verify the allegation through proper fact-checking and went ahead with consecutive press briefings to bolster its negative campaign against Moon.
The tip-off was released to the media in captured images of a conversation between Ahn's campaigner and a man claiming to be a friend of the younger Moon on a mobile messenger.
It was later found to have been concocted by the campaigner, Lee You-mi, and her brother who posed as the friend. Lee's been indicted and detained for fabricating the evidence in violation of the election law.
The evidence was delivered to the two Kims by Lee Joon-seo, then a senior party member who's also detained and is facing trial on charges of neglecting to verify the tip-off and pushing ahead with its disclosure.
The prosecutors initially suspected that the party's leadership could be involved as they may have intentionally overlooked the possible flaw in the claim.
But they concluded that there was no evidence to tie Rep. Park Jie-won and Rep. Lee Yong-joo of the People's Party to the suspicions that they also knew about the falsity and took part in the scheme. They were considered the last two people with the authority to deal with such information before it was revealed to the public.
Following the announcement on the probe results, the People's Party issued an apology and pledged sweeping reforms through an overhaul of the party system to prevent recurrence of such misdeeds.
Source: Yonhap News Agency