Hwang, Yoon part of martial law plan: Human rights group

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Hwang, Yoon part of martial law plan: Human rights group

A military human rights organization said both former prime minister and current head of the opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) Hwang Kyo-ahn and Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-yeol were involved in the alleged plan to impose martial law in Gwanghwamun Square in 2017, had candlelight rallies calling for former President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment turned into angry mobs.

“A document drafted by the [now-disbanded] Defense Security Command [DSC] states that for martial law to be carried out, it will require a consensus with relevant government bodies, with the National Security Council [NSC] at the center of the consensus,” said Lim Tae-hoon, head of the Military Human Rights Center for Korea, at a press conference prior to the National Assembly’s audit of the National Defense Committee last Monday.

“Hwang at the time was the chair of the NSC and prime minister of Korea, and he may have known about the plan.”

Lim said a document he was in possession of was the original and intact copy of the previously revealed nine-page DSC-drafted document summarizing the military’s martial law plan.

The nine-page document was revealed to the public by Rep. Rhee Cheol-hee of the Democratic Party (DP) in July last year.

Lim said that nine-page document was tweaked by the DSC.

The nine-page document detailed plans to declare martial law on March 10, 2017, in case the Constitutional Court ruled against the impeachment of Park and angry mobs stormed the streets.

Allegations that Park allowed her close friend to influence decisions at the state-level first surfaced in October 2016.

Following investigations, Park was impeached for power abuse and her involvement in a corruption scandal and removed from office in March 2017. She was placed under arrest that same month and indicted in April that same year.

Candlelight rallies to call for her ouster were held weekly at Gwanghwamun Square from October 2016 to April 2017.

Contrary to the nine-page document, Lim said his document designated March 8, 2017, as the execution day of martial law, two days before the scheduled date of ruling by the Constitutional Court on whether to impeach Park.

He said the document also detailed additional plans of where to dispatch military forces if martial law were to be put into effect, including shutting down some 10 bridges across the Han River and dispatching forces in Sinchon, Daehangno and Seoul National University areas.

The Ministry of National Defense said last week they will check the contents of the document.

“We will check that document,” said Choi Hyun-soo, spokesperson of the Defense Ministry, at a press briefing last Tuesday. “There is nothing more we can say on the matter right now.”

When the nine-page martial law plan surfaced in July last year, President Moon Jae-in ordered military units implicated in the martial law planning to submit all related materials directly to him.

Also in the same month, a special investigation team was set up to probe the allegations.

The team questioned at least 204 people, including current and former DSC officials, and conducted search and seizures on some 90 locations, but was suspended in November last year after it failed to track down a key suspect, Cho Hyun-chun, chief of DSC from 2014 to 2017.

Cho left for the United States in December 2017. An arrest warrant was issued for Cho in September 2018 and his passport has been invalidated. But he was not located by authorities.

Lim also testified before the Assembly’s audit of National Defense Committee as a witness last Monday. He said that the prosecution - including Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-yeol - may not have investigated the matter as closely as it should have.

In a radio program last week, Lim said Yoon was the head of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office at the time that the office was in charge of the investigations into Cho, alleging that Yoon must have known about the possible ties between NSC and martial law plan yet suspended the case.

The prosecution denied the allegation, announcing in a statement on Wednesday that there was a separate, independent prosecution team that investigated the martial law plan, and that Yoon was not reported of the details in the investigations.

Both the opposition and ruling parties responded strongly to Yoon’s claims.

“If the said document is real, then it must still be classified,” said opposition LKP Rep. Lee Ju-young. “Lim should tell us how he came to obtain the classified document and we must punish whoever leaked it.”

“We will have to find out what happened in the previous investigations,” said ruling DP Rep. Hong Young-pyo. “The prosecution should reveal exactly how it conducted the previous investigations on the martial law plans.”

Hwang in a meeting with a group of reporters last Tuesday at the Assembly said Lim was making a false claim.

“I have not been reported of such a plan to impose martial law,” Hwang said. “What’s been told is a lie. I will take proper legal action.”

BY LEE CHUL-JAE, ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]
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