Police drop car accident charges against JTBC Anchor Sohn Suk-hee + to continue pursuing assault charge

Ali Hansburg, May 23, 2019, 9:23 a.m.

Police said Wednesday that they will not charge star anchor Sohn Suk-hee of cable channel JTBC for breach of trust over his dealings with an alleged blackmailer in connection with a mystery car accident.

But Sohn will be charged with assaulting his nemesis, a freelance reporter by the name of Kim Woong, in a bar in Seoul when they met to discuss a job offer. 

Sohn, who also runs the channel, had allegedly tried to appease Kim by offering him a two-year service contract with JTBC and guaranteeing him W10 million in monthly earnings (US$1=W1,191).

That led a rightwing civic group, which has a reason to hate the anchor because JTBC was at the forefront of breaking news of the corruption scandal that brought down President Park Geun-hye, to file a complaint against him on charges of breach of trust.

Police have also charged Kim with blackmail.

But it remains a mystery why Sohn was so keen to draw a veil over the minor late-night fender-bender in a parking lot. One witness testified to seeing an unidentified woman in Sohn's car who Sohn later claimed was his mother.

A police source said, "More concrete developments are needed to establish a case for breach of trust, such as the signing of a contract."

Kim said he received a text message from Sohn saying "details [of the contract] will be decided after a meeting of people in charge." That suggests significant discussions at JTBC, but police concluded that no such meetings had taken place.

Police concluded from interviews with JTBC staffers and the contents of Sohn's mobile phone that Sohn "mentioned a meeting that hadn't in fact taken place to put Kim off," the source said.

Some legal experts say that the offer itself was enough to establish a criminal case. "Breach of trust charges can be established since the contents of the text message were quite specific, mentioning a two-year contract and guarantees monthly pay of W10 million." But another lawyer said, "The charges would stick only if more concrete action was taken."

The Western District Prosecutors' Office in Seoul, to which the case has been referred, will look into the charges again, according to a source.

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