By Kim Hyo-jin
Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) floor leader Rep. Woo Sang-ho called for a thorough investigation into ultra-right civic groups that support ousted President Park Geun-hye, saying they were behaving like an "organized crime ring."
"Rightist groups that have participated in the anti-impeachment movement reportedly extorted donations from conglomerates. It was like extortion by gangsters," Woo said during a party's meeting.
The remark came as suspicions are deepening over links between far-right civic groups, the presidential office and the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI), the main lobbying arm of conglomerates.
The Hankook Ilbo, the sister paper of The Korea Times, reported Wednesday that leaders of rightist civic groups had directly contacted senior FKI members throughout last year, quoting the independent counsel team that looked into the presidential corruption scandal.
Joo Ok-soon, the head of the ultra-conservative Unit of Mothers, contacted a senior official at the FKI surnamed Kwon on over 40 occasions via text messages and phone conversations from January to October last year.
Park Chan-sung, the head of the Anti-Nuclear, Anti-Kim Jong-un People's Council, often messaged and phoned Lee Yong-woo, an executive of the lobby group; and Chang Ki-jung, the leader of Young's Liberty Union with its Vice Chairman Lee Seung-cheol, according to the counsel team.
The controversial groups have been at the frontline of the rallies in support of former President Park and her policies during her term.
The report fanned suspicion that the civic leaders actively requested funds from the chaebol's lobby group while backed by the presidential office.
The counsel team said earlier that the leaders also had close contact with Heo Hyun-joon, a Cheong Wa Dae official at the public communications office, who is accused of forcing the FKI to provide funds to the rightist groups in a bid to encourage pro-Park rallies.
The independent counsel confirmed that the FKI provided a total of 6.8 billion won to 20 or so rightist groups from 2014 to October 2016.