DSC’s ex-chief, facing investigation, ends life

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DSC’s ex-chief, facing investigation, ends life

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Lee Jae-su

The former chief of the now-disbanded Defense Security Command (DSC) Lee Jae-su, who was being investigated for abuse of power, jumped to his death from a building in Songpa District, southern Seoul, on Friday.

He was immediately hospitalized but was pronounced dead. A suicide note was reportedly found on the site, and police are investigating the case.

Lee has been accused of ordering illegal surveillance of family members of the victims of the Sewol ferry sinking in 2014 while he was the head of the DSC, a military intelligence unit.

The accusation surfaced through an internal investigation by the Ministry of National Defense in July. The investigation alleged that the DSC spied on the Sewol victims’ families and attempted to sway public opinion in favor of the Park Geun-hye administration in the aftermath of the tragedy. The sinking of the ferry in 2014 killed over 300 people, most of whom were high school students on a school trip. The DSC allegedly tried to in rein in victims’ families who criticized the administration’s botched rescue operation.

In one document, the DSC classified victims’ families into three different categories - hard-line, moderate and soft-line - based on their attitudes toward the Park administration. The document contained information on the families’ political activities from as far back as November 2013, six months prior to the sinking.

Lee attended a hearing on Monday for an arrest warrant. “There is a saying that all honor goes to a subordinate and all responsibility to myself, and those are my thoughts as well,” he said at the hearing. “I carried out my duty without shame.”

The court dismissed the request for an arrest warrant for Lee that day, saying that enough evidence was collected on the case and there was little possibility of Lee destroying evidence or fleeing from authorities.

The DSC was also found to have drawn up plans to impose martial law in case the Constitutional Court decided not to remove President Park from office in March 2017 over a corruption and abuse of power scandal. Some of the plans drafted by the DSC described progressive protesters as “North Korea followers” and justified violently suppressing dissent to restore order. The DSC was dismantled in August and reborn as the weakened and civilian-supervised Defense Security Support Command.

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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