Moon must answerA son of the fisheries official brutally killed by North Korean soldiers in the Yellow Sea sent a handwritten letter to President Moon Jae-in Tuesday demanding an explanation of his father’s tragic death. In the letter, the son, a high school student, expressed deep pain shared by his mother and 8-year-old sister. “If your children were suffering the agony that we are going through now, would you still act like this, Mr. President?” asked the son. “I want to ask you why my father was found in the North Korean waters, what the country did to save his life and why it failed to rescue him.”
It is natural for humanity to sympathize with the tragic death of an official murdered and burned by the North Korean military at sea, get angry about it, and try to console his family. Nevertheless, some pro-government netizens rubbed salt into the wounds of the family with malicious comments such as, “Why should the government protect a defector?” and “Families of defectors must live in hiding.” That constitutes a brazen secondary form of violence on the bereaved family.
The ruling Democratic Party (DP), the Defense Ministry, the Unification Ministry, the Oceans and Fisheries Ministry and the Korean Coast Guard are all busy framing the official’s suspicious crossing of the maritime border as a case of defection. The Defense Ministry and Coast Guard are under fire for their futile searches for the corpse far below the Northern Limit Line.
The family sent a letter to the UN special rapporteur for human rights in North Korea to demand an investigation into the brutalities committed by North Korean soldiers. An elder brother of the killed official said he will let the entire world know the cruel act by North Korea through cooperation with the parents of Otto Warmbier, an American college student who died less than a week following his release from 17 months of detention in North Korea. While President Moon and his administration are sitting on their hands instead of rolling up their sleeves, the case has evolved into an international human rights issue beyond the Korean realm.
In a security ministers meeting on Sept. 27, Moon asked North Korea to conduct a joint investigation of the incident. After keeping mum, he said, “Let’s first wait for the results of our Coast Guard’s searches.” Such remarks cannot help address the case. Moon must make clear his determination to protect the people’s lives and put words into action.
In the letter to Moon, the official’s son wondered why the president could not protect his farther. In a speech to the nation on Liberation Day on Aug. 15, Moon underscored the need for the government to serve the people and vowed to protect lives. The time has come for him to prove it through action.