Artists expected to file class-action suit Thursday
Ex-minister, aide join three others over creation of artist "blacklist"
Hundreds of “blacklisted” artists purportedly critical of the administration of the now-impeached South Korean President are fighting back, with a plan to file a lawsuit against the embattled premier and her government.
The Republic of Korea, President Park Guen-hye and other government officials are to be sued, according to a statement by MINBYUN-Lawyers for a Democratic Society, among the attorneys representing the plaintiffs.
The group of lawyers, whose name translated into English from Korean means “Legal Counteraction Group for President Park Administration’s Cultural, Art industry Blacklist Crisis,” has so far recruited 474 plaintiffs from among the almost 10,000 artists on the list.
A spokesman for the special prosecutor’s office, Lee Kyu-chul, said that the cultural ministry banned artists on this list from receiving government funds.
The names of the artists on the blacklist have not been made public, although a leaked document included prominent, award-winning Korean writers.
The statement comes a day after South Korea’s special prosecutor indicted two former members of Park’s government – former culture minister Cho Yoon-sun and former presidential chief of staff, Kim Ki-choon – on charges of abuse of power, coercion, and perjury in relation to their involvement in the drafting of the so-called blacklist.
Both have denied all charges, according to the spokesman, Lee. Cho and Kim will be listed as defendants in the lawsuit, the statement said.
After weeks of protest, South Korea’s parliament voted on December 9 to impeach Park over improprieties related to her informal adviser and friend, Choi Soon-Sil’s role in her government. The impeachment proceedings are expected to last through the month.
She may be questioned by special prosecutors later this week – the first sitting president to be questioned in this way – but could refuse.
Details of the indictments were not disclosed, senior prosecutor Lee Kyu-Chul said, as his office still needs to question Park and Choi.
“Charges related to Park Geun-Hye and Choi Soon-Sil are included in their indictments, but detailed instructions cannot be revealed now,” Lee said.
Cho and Kim join the former minister’s predecessor, Kim Jong-deok, who was indicted on the same charges on January 30. Former first vice cultural minister Jung Kwan-joo and Park’s former presidential aide Shin Dong-churl have also been indicted in relation to the so-called blacklist.
Kim’s trial is ongoing, and during hearings for Park’s impeachment, he said that this list was already existent when he came to office at the ministry.
Protests, a president’s ouster
South Korea’s political class finished last year in turmoil after allegations emerged that Park had allowed Choi, her confidante, who was not a member of government, access to classified documents despite her unofficial status.
Choi is also accused of intervening in state affairs, and massive protests late last year led to Park’s impeachment and Choi’s arrest.
Choi was a friend and informal adviser to South Korean President Park Geun-hye, and has been described as a Rasputin-like character to the leader.
She is on trial on charges of abuse of power and attempted fraud following the accusations she had access to secret government documents.
CNN’s Sol Han and journalist Seo Yoon-jung contributed to this report.