S. Korean minister arrested over artist blacklist allegation

Jan 20, 2017

South Korean prosecutors arrested President Park Geun-hye's culture minister and her former top presidential adviser over allegations that they blacklisted artists critical of the government

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean prosecutors on Saturday arrested President Park Geun-hye's culture minister and her former top presidential adviser over allegations that they blacklisted artists critical of the government.

Culture Minister Cho Yoon-sun and ex-presidential chief of staff Kim Ki-choon were allegedly involved in the drawing-up of a blacklist of thousands of artists and cultural figures to exclude them from government funding programs. Three other top former officials have already been arrested over the allegation.

The arrests of Cho and Kim came as the Seoul Central District Court approved prosecutors' request to arrest them for alleged abuse of power and other charges.

The blacklist allegation surfaced as authorities widened their investigations into the explosive political scandal that led to Park's parliamentary impeachment last month. The Constitutional Court is reviewing whether to formally end Park's rule and hold an election to replace her.

Prosecutors accuse Park of colluding with a longtime confidante to extort tens of millions of dollars from businesses and let her meddle in state affairs although she has never had an official post. The confidante, Choi Soon-sil, and several of Park's former presidential advisers have been arrested.

In a setback to prosecutors' investigation, the Seoul court on Thursday disapproved the arrest of Lee Jae-yong, the de-facto leader of Samsung Group which donated the largest portion of the money to two non-profit foundations controlled by Choi. Prosecutors wanted to arrest Lee because they believed the Samsung money was a form of bribe, but the court said there was not enough justification to arrest Lee.

Park, a daughter of late dictator Park Chung-hee, has faced criticism that she tried to curb free speech and labor rights. Her government's alleged backlist reportedly included "Oldboy" film director Park Chan-wook and poet Ko Un, whose name frequently surfaces in discussions for the Nobel literature prize.