Seems like a cover-up is continuingIn a press conference on Friday, the relatives of a 47-year-old South Korean fisheries official who was brutally killed by the North Korean Navy in the Yellow Sea in September 2020 expressed strong dissatisfaction with the Moon Jae-in administration’s handling of the case. The relatives of the late Lee Dae-jun held the press conference a day after the Ministry of National Defense and the Korea Coast Guard under the Yoon Suk-yeol administration reversed their announcements of two years ago and expressed regret about them. The indescribable frustration, pain and anger the families have experienced over the past 21 months was delivered acutely through the conference.
What the new administration must do is find the truth behind the killing of the official and hold related officials accountable for possible dereliction of duty. On Saturday, the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) took an appropriate step by announcing a plan to look into the circumstances of his death. The problem is that the BAI cannot gain access to documents sealed off by the Moon administration for security reasons. It requires endorsement by more than two thirds of lawmakers to open presidential records, but the Democratic Party opposes it.
Rep. Woo Sang-ho, the DP floor leader, attacked the People Power Party (PPP) for demanding the release of the documents, saying it would expose our military systems to North Korea. He went on to say, “The case ended after North Korea apologized about it. Whether he [the victim] had the intention to defect or not is not important.”
After the murder, the Moon administration claimed the victim was trying to defect. But over the May 18, 1980 democracy movement and the April 2014 Sewol ferry disaster, the DP pushed government investigations to the limits to find the truth behind those disasters. The PPP and government have criticized the about-turn of the DP for its double standards.
This is a tragic case involving the slaughter of one of our citizens and a potential cover-up. The Yoon administration also plans to investigate another suspicious case in which the Moon administration repatriated two North Korean fishermen who defected to South Korea in 2019. That occurred when Moon was exerting all efforts to invite North Korea leader Kim Jong-un to the Korea-Asean summit in Busan. The murder of the fisheries official and repatriation of the two North Korean defectors directly relate to human rights, which were supposed to be a core priority for Moon and his administration. The DP must allow the sealed presidential records be opened as soon as possible.