A cover-up starts to unravel

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A cover-up starts to unravel

The Ministry of National Defense and the Korea Coast Guard have expressed regret for the announcement they made 21 months ago that a South Korea fisheries official tried defecting to North Korea before being killed in the Yellow Sea. The two ministries have reversed their earlier position. They said they could not find any evidence for the official’s “voluntary defection” after looking into the case again. Earlier, a court delivered a ruling that supported his relatives’ demand for the release of information on how the North Korean Navy found him on the Yellow Sea.

The Blue House under former president Moon Jae-in appealed the court’s ruling, but the National Security Office (NSO) under conservative President Yoon Suk-yeol withdrew the appeal. The NSO said it took steps to correct the previous administration’s decision to not notify the official’s relatives of the circumstances leading up to his tragic death. The office expressed hope that the action would satisfy public’s right to know. We welcome the new government’s action.

On September 22, 2020, a 47-year-old official from the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries went missing in the waters off Yeonpyeong Island before being slaughtered and burned at sea. The reaction to that gruesome tragedy was typical of a liberal administration only concerned with improving relations with North Korea and not caring about its own people — even after they are murdered. In November 2019, the Moon administration repatriated two North Korean defectors after Pyongyang called for their return.

The Moon administration seems to have covered up the case. The administration wasted six hours even after recognizing that North Koreans caught the fisheries official. After the case was reported in the media, the government linked it to the possibility of defection. In a video speech Moon made to the UN General Assembly four hours after the official’s death, he pleaded with the world to back a declaration to end the Korean War. After North Korean leader Kim Jong-un apologized for the murder, the Democratic Party praised him as an “enlightened monarch.”

After the son of the murdered official sent a letter to Moon to petition for the release of facts behind his father’s mysterious death, the Blue House dismissed it. The presidential office even designated key documents in the case as “presidential records,” which must be kept secret for up to 15 years.

The Ministry of National Defense has changed a phrase in confidential documents from “confirmed death and burning of his body” to “presumed death and burning of his body.” The NSO and defense ministry must probe into communications between the office and the ministry. Releasing sensitive military information is not easy. But the new government must do its best to find the truth and let the people know it. Nothing is more precious than our people’s lives.
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