[EDITORIALS]2 agencies, zero trust

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[EDITORIALS]2 agencies, zero trust

The Ministry of National Defense made public yesterday the outcome of its interim investigation into the death of Private Heo Won-geun. The outcome contradicted what the Presidential Truth Commission on Suspicious Deaths said last month. The commission said Private Heo was killed by accidental gunfire by his drunken superior officer and his death was disguised as a suicide. However, the ministry's special investigation team said there was no accidental gunfire at the time. Because the two government agencies differ in their investigations of a single incident, we do not know which one to trust. The investigation of a suspicious death, instead of resolving doubt, increased doubt.

The ministry said a soldier, who witnessed the accidental gunfire, failed to give consistent testimony. The witness also refused to be cross-examined with other officers, thus the ministry concluded his testimony must not be entirely true. The ministry added that a multiple number of soldiers testified before investigators that there was no gunfire. The ministry, therefore, concluded that Private Heo was either murdered by a third party or committed suicide.

The presidential fact-finding commission, however, persisted in its original investigation. The commission said the ministry investigators failed to investigate the soldier who witnessed the gunfire, and other witnesses may have changed their testimonies under pressure. The ministry was focusing on negating the commission's investigation, the commission complained. It's our impression that the two agencies do not get along at all.

Private Heo's death took place 18 years ago. A number of military investigations determined the death to be a suicide, making it difficult to find out why he died. The ministry and the commission's investigations done recently were the perfect opportunity to uncover the real truth, and yet the two organizations didn't trust each other. Civic groups and experts should join to conduct more investigations and to share the data of the two agencies in order to draw up a persuasive conclusion. That is the only way to convince the people and the victim's family.
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