[Byun Hee-jae's Column] JTBC Reporter Kim Pil-joon Should Confess to Fabricating the 'Choi Soon-sil Tablet'

The 'Choi Soon-sil Tablet' fabrication case, emblematic of national chaos, caused significant national turmoil. For civilian Kim Pil-joon, swift admission of guilt is the sole path to getting off scot-free.

MediaWatch Editorial Department mediasilkhj@gmail.com 2024.05.16 18:02:29

(May 5, 2024) The tampering of JTBC's Choi Soon-sil tablet, a critical piece of evidence in the downfall of former President Park Geun-hye and her subsequent 22-year prison sentence, has now been definitively proven.

Initially, JTBC broadcasters, tampered with the L-shaped lock pattern on the original Choi Soon-sil tablet device they obtained in late 2016. Special Prosecutors Yoon Seok-yeol and Han Dong-hoon followed suit and tampered with the L-shaped lock pattern on the second Choi Soon-sil tablet device, which they obtained from Jang Shi-ho in early 2017. They then falsely attributed the tablets to Choi Seo-won (formerly known as Choi Soon-sil), claiming that all her smartphones had the same L-shaped lock pattern.

The pivotal figure in the acquisition of the original tablet was Kim Pil-joon, a reporter for JTBC.  Kim, known for acquiring the tablet, provided repeated testimony regarding the L-shaped lock pattern throughout the prosecution's investigation and during the initial trial of the tablet defamation case, in which Byun Hee-jae herself was a defendant.

Kim testified that on October 18, 2016, with the assistance of a building manager in a Gangnam building, he gained entry into the vacant office of The Blue K, an establishment linked to Ko Young-tae, where he discovered the Choi Soon-sil tablet. He also stated that the tablet initially had a locking pattern, but he serendipitously unlocked the device by drawing an L-shape pattern— his usual locking pattern. 

Kim's testimony starkly contrasts with the evidence presented. Recently, at the behest of Byun Hee-jae, the Korean Cyber Forensic Professionals Association (KCFPA) meticulously analyzed the device_policies.xml file extracted from Choi Soon-sil's tablet's filesystem, provided by the National Institute of Forensic Science and Investigation. Their findings, outlined in a Digital Evidence Appraisal Certificate dated May 1, 2024, conclusively demonstrated that the L-shaped lock pattern on Choi Soon-sil's tablet was not established until approximately 5 pm on October 24, 2016—significantly later than Kim's purported acquisition timeframe.

The significance of 5 pm on October 24, 2016, lies in its timing: this was when JTBC Broadcasting Company relinquished control of the tablet to the prosecution, following days of device analysis. This handover occurred just before JTBC's planned special report on the tablet. In essence, the digital forensic examination conclusively revealed that the L-shaped lock pattern on the tablet device was installed by JTBC Broadcasting Company, not by Choi Seo-won.

Reporter Kim Pil-joon's assertion to the prosecution that the L-shaped lock pattern was established on the 'Choi Soon-sil tablet' upon his reception of it on October 18, 2016, and his subsequent testimony during the initial trial of the tablet defamation case, constitutes perjury. Such false statements by Kim Pil-joon are a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison, with a statute of limitations of 10 years.

In retrospect, JTBC's coverage of the tablet incident was questionable from the outset. Initially, until the close of 2016, JTBC portrayed Shim Soo-mi as the individual who had obtained the tablet. However, in early 2017, following allegations of tampering, the broadcaster altered its narrative, attributing the acquisition to Kim Pil-joon instead.

Even Park Joo-hyun, a lawyer who served at the Blue House Special Inspector General’s Office under Park Geun-hye, contested the narrative, stating, “The tablet was not acquired by Kim Pil-joon.” Park elaborated, "Kim Pil-joon claimed he waited for eight hours. Given that we both reside in Sillim-dong, Gwanak-gu, I knew him.”

“Regardless, the tablet PC served as the catalyst for the impeachment, yet he (Kim) didn't pick it up,” Park elaborated, suggesting that Kim's account was inaccurate. “During our conversations over drinks, he stated he did not retrieve it.”

Not only Choi Seo-won, but Ko Young-tae, an employee at The Blue K office, has consistently denied that the JTBC broadcasters and Kim Pil-joon obtained the tablet. Ko said, "If Choi Seo-won's tablet was on my desk, I would have certainly obtained it as evidence." 

The falsehood propagated by Kim Pil-joon concerning the L-shaped locking pattern underscores the necessity for a renewed reinvestigation into the 'Choi Soon-sil tablet,' encompassing its acquisition process and the individuals who actually utilized it.

A senior journalist within the conservative camp remarked, "With the gradual exposure of the tablet manipulation, Kim Pil-joon is evidently feeling frustrated within the company." Given Kim's standing in his career at that time, he likely wasn't the primary figure behind the tablet scoop. Yet, JTBC consistently pinned all responsibility on him, from justifying the tablet's acquisition to the perjury allegations involving Byun Hee-jae and Media Watch. Now, with irrefutable evidence of his falsehoods, Kim is confronting significant repercussions.

Kim's father, Kim Pil-joon, holds a professorship at the Korea Baking Institute and known to have majored in journalism. Growing up as the son of a journalist, Kim likely never envisioned that his career path would lead him to JTBC Broadcasting Company—a subsidiary of the JoongAng Ilbo Media Group, established by Samsung Chairman Lee Byung-chul with the mission of serving national interests— and find himself implicated as the orchestrator of evidence tampering, a saga that has reverberated through global journalistic and judicial annals.

Eight years have elapsed since the notorious tablet scandal first emerged. In June of last year, Media Watch readers congregated in front of JTBC, demanding confessions from key figures such as Kim Pil-joon, Shim Soo-mi, Son Yong-seok, Son Seok-hee, and others implicated in fabricating the tablets. Following this rally, Kim conspicuously vanished from JTBC's broadcasts.

The sole recourse for Kim to salvage both his and his father's honor lies in swift confession. Meanwhile, Yoon Seok-yeol and Han Dong-hoon, the masterminds behind the tablet manipulation, have already faced public condemnation and now live as political fugitives. Given that they have completely destroyed the conservative camp, there will be no conservative support for the two and tablet tampering forces. 

The tablet manipulation case transcends mere criminal law; it represents a dire instance where a coalition of broadcasters and prosecutors, featuring figures like Yoon Seok-yeol, Han Dong-hoon, Park Joo-sung, and Kim Young-cheol, resorted to fabricating evidence to grasp at power and incite national upheaval. Consequently, through a special council investigation, all implicated parties will inevitably face severe repercussions, potentially even the death penalty or its equivalent punishment.

Individuals like Kim Pil-joon, Kim Han-soo, Jang Shi-ho, and other civilians who colluded with powerful figures and became accomplices in the tablet fabrication will be spared punishment only if they are the first to come forward and confess their involvement.

Kim Pil-joon and Kim Joong-nyeon, I implore you to join hands and contemplate deeply overnight on the path ahead for both the nation and yourselves.

MediaWatch Editorial Department mediasilkhj@gmail.com

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ⓒ 미디어워치 & mediawatch.kr

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