Prof. Ahn Cheol-soo counterattacks

Keum Tae-sup, left, a lawyer and close aide of potential presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo, speaks during a press conference held in Seoul, Thursday. Later Jeong Jun-gil, the former public relations officer for the ruling Saenuri Party’s presidential candidate Park Geun-hye, countered Keum’s allegation that he threatened to blackmail Ahn during a phone conversation with Keum. (Photo : The Korea Times/Koh Young-kwon)

Aide argues Rep. Park’s PR officer threatened to reveal dirty laundry

A lawyer working for Ahn Cheol-soo, a popular Seoul National University professor, claimed a public relations officer to the Park Geun-hye camp threatened to blackmail Ahn to discourage him from running for president.

However, the person in question, Jeong Jun-gil denied the allegation, arguing he was quoted out of context and alleging that Ahn was trying to counterattack as he was being criticized for ethical flaws.

“Jeong called me Tuesday and threatened to reveal extramarital affairs and shady financial deals conducted by Ahn, if he decides to run for president,” said the lawyer, Keum Tae-sup, during a press conference at the Korea Press Center in downtown Seoul.

Keum said that the phone call took place Tuesday and lasted for seven minutes.

He claimed that making such a threatening phone call constituted a crime, urging the Park camp to stop playing dirty politics.

The lawyer said he didn’t have a voice recording of the phone conversation, but said what he was revealing was the truth.

This was the first time that Ahn’s camp has held a press conference in connection with political affairs, indicating that he may be closer than ever to launching a bid for the Dec. 19 presidential election.

Ahn has yet to declare his participation, but the founder of computer virus vaccine provider AhnLab has recently stepped up efforts to reach out to voters, including farmers, college students and noted scholars, and former high-ranking government officials.

This prompted campaign watchers to speculate that he may announce his candidacy soon.

Ahn’s support rate had fallen after a fresh set of allegations surfaced recently regarding his character, and so Keum’s disclosure may be an attempt to reverse this.

If the allegation turns out to be true and Rep. Park Geun-hye, the presidential candidate of the Saenuri Party, was aware of this, she is likely to suffer a serious backlash.

During a news conference held immediately after Keum made the allegation, Jeong admitted making the phone call but denied making any such remarks.

“As a friend, I was going to give Keum some advice because he is close to Ahn. I told him what I heard from other people and rumors about Ahn that I happened to have heard,” he said.

“I wanted Keum and myself to better understand each other, although we work for different people,” Jeong said, adding that he was selected for the PR post Tuesday when he made the call.

Both Keum and Jeong are graduates of Seoul National University School of Law. Jeong said they have known each other for 25 years and the phone call was made against this backdrop.

Jeong tendered his resignation to take responsibility for causing the controversy. <The Korea Times/Kang Hyun-kyung>

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