Kim murder inquiry becomes wide-ranging
A formal investigation into when South Korean government officials first learned of the abduction of Kim Sun-il, killed by Islamic militants in Iraq this week, widened yesterday. A team of auditors is expected to leave for Iraq early next week.
“The National Security Council, the Foreign Ministry, the Defense Ministry and the National Intelligence Service will be the four agencies under investigation,” said Yoon Tai-young, Blue House spokesman.
The Board of Audit and Inspection will look into information-gathering systems at each agency, and coordination among these agencies.
Begun under orders of President Roh Moo-hyun, the investigation will have to address questions left unanswered as Kim Chun-ho, who employed Kim Sun-il as an Arabic interpreter, is giving contradictory statements on the timing of the kidnapping. Mr. Kim, president of Cana General Trading Co., has refused to return to Seoul, prompting the team to go to Iraq.
Meanwhile, a dispute between South Korea’s Foreign Ministry and the Associated Press grew.
After Tuesday’s beheading of the 33-year-old Mr. Kim, the Associated Press reported Thursday that its subsidiary, Associated Press Television News in Baghdad, received a video tape of the kidnapped South Korean. The Associated Press said a reporter in Seoul on June 3 called the ministry to ask whether it had information about the abduction of a Korean in Iraq. It received a negative reply.
The wire agency refused to divulge the name of the ministry official it spoke to. The ministry identified yesterday two officials who talked with a Korean AP reporter. But the two officials could not remember details of their conversations.
Meanwhile, the 16-member audit team began its work at the Foreign Ministry. Shin Bong-kil, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said documents related to the alleged telephone inquiry on June 3 by the Associated Press have been submitted. Mr. Shin declined to answer any questions, saying that the matter now rests with the auditors.
The South Korean Embassy in Iraq has said it never received calls from the Associated Press asking about a possible abduction.
Separately, three opposition parties ― the Grand National Party, the Millennium Democratic Party and the Democratic Labor Party ― agreed to send a parliamentary investigative team to Iraq, and to hold hearings on the government’s management of the Kim Sun-il murder.
Representative Kim Deog-ryong, floor leader of the Grand National Party, said, “The answers we got from the government yesterday at the special question session on this case were truly disappointing.”
Opposition politicians urged an early start to the parliamentary investigation and a hearing, putting them at odds with the government.
“We should first open the National Assembly, before talking about a hearing,” said Representative Chun Jung-bae, the governing party’s floor leader. “It is not that we do not want to hold hearings into this case, but there is an order to things.”
The National Assembly opened June 5, but has been bogged down by power struggles among parties and committees and other operational matters. Risks facing Koreans remaining in Iraq were also addressed yesterday. In a parliamentary questions session Thursday, Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon said that the government was strongly urging remaining South Korean nationals in Iraq to leave, but cannot force them to.
by Kim Ji-soo, Lee Ka-young