South Korea ex-culture minister charged over artist blacklist

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A former South Korean culture minister was formally charged on Tuesday for creating a "blacklist" of nearly 10,000 artists who had voiced criticism of now-impeached President Park Geun-Hye, prosecutors said.

Cho Yoon-Sun, 50, is accused of secretly compiling the vast list to starve the artists -- among them filmmakers, authors, painters and more -- of state subsidies and private funding and to put them under state surveillance.

Kim Ki-Choon, a powerful former chief of staff for the conservative president, was also indicted for spearheading the creation and enforcement of the blacklist.

Both officials were arrested last month and were charged Tuesday with abuse of power and coercion, said a team of special prosecutors probing a wider scandal over Park.

"They abused their power to force officials... to stop offering subsidies to artists and cultural organisations that had different views from the government," senior prosecutor Lee Kyu-Chul told reporters.

Two of the impeached president's former aides were also charged, and prosecutors named Park herself as an accomplice in the creation of the list, although she says she was not aware of its existence.

Park is accused of letting a secret confidante with a questionable background, Choi Soon-Sil, handle state affairs including senior nominations.

She was impeached by parliament in December and the constitutional court is currently considering whether to uphold the impeachment.

Prosecutors intend to question Park soon over multiple accusations including her potential role in helping Choi extract tens of millions of dollars from local businesses.

The existence of the blacklist -- targeting more than 9,000 artists in literature, movie, music, theatre, fine arts and dance -- sparked widespread anger.

The artists named had voiced support for liberal opposition parties, or criticised Park's conservative government and its policy failures, including the botched rescue efforts after the 2014 Sewol ferry sinking in which around 300 people died.

The list reads like a Who's Who of Seoul's art scene and also includes those who criticised or satirised Park's own father, late strongman Park Chung-Hee who ruled from 1961 to 1979 with an iron fist and imposed ruthless censorship of the arts.

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

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