S. Korea former presidential aide jailed over artist blacklist

Seoul (AFP) –


A top aide close to South Korea's disgraced former president was sentenced to three years Thursday for blacklisting nearly 10,000 artists seen as critical of Park Geun-Hye's government.

The ruling is seen as a blow to ex-leader Park, who has been separately standing trial after being impeached in March and indicted on 18 charges including bribery, coercion and abuse of power.

The crackdown against more than 9,000 artists in music, literature, film, dance, fine arts and theatre is among the charges against her.

In Thursday's ruling the Seoul Central District Court convicted Kim Ki-Choon, former chief of staff for the conservative president, of being behind the creation and enforcement of a blacklist of artists.

The list reads like a Who's Who of Seoul's arts scene and was drawn up with the intent of starving many artists of government subsidies and placing them under surveillance.

Among the names included are novelist Han Kang, winner of the 2016 Man Booker International Prize, and "Oldboy" film director Park Chan-Wook, who won the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2004.

"The exclusion (of the artists from government subsidies) constituted a serious breach of constitutional rights not to be discriminated against in cultural activities," the court said in a statement.

"This move ran against the spirit of the constitution," it said.

Many artists on the list had satirised or criticised Park or her late father, Park Chung-Hee, who ruled with an iron fist from 1961 to 1979.

The blacklist also included artist Hong Sung-Dam, whose painting of the 2014 Sewol ferry sinking was withdrawn from South Korea's largest contemporary art festival allegedly because of pressure from the presidential Blue House.

Park's government was heavily criticised for its handling of the disaster, in which more than 300 people died.

Four other former senior officials were also imprisoned between 18 to 24 months.

But former culture minister Cho Yoon-Sun, who was dubbed "Cinderella" because of her rapid career rise under Park, was given a suspended jail sentence.

She will be immediately released from a detention centre where she has been in custody since January.

Cho was found not guilty of being part of the artist blackballing, but convicted of perjury in parliament.

Prosecution authorities and all the accused except Cho are expected to appeal.