Moon gov't bigwigs accused of coverup of 2020 murder
Relatives of a South Korean fisheries official killed by North Korean soldiers in 2020 submitted criminal complaints on Wednesday against high-ranking members of the last administration for allegedly forcing the Korea Coast Guard to say he was trying to defect.
Lee Rae-jin, brother of slain Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries official Lee Dae-joon, submitted criminal complaints against Suh Hoon, former National Security Office chief, Kim Jong-ho, former senior secretary to the president for civil affairs, and Lee Kwang-cheol, former civil affairs secretary, alleging the trio committed obstruction of justice, abuse of authority, and falsification of documents about Lee’s death at the hands of North Korean soldiers.
Lee was on duty in the Yellow Sea south of Yeonpyeong Island near the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the de facto inter-Korean maritime boundary, when he disappeared on Sept. 22, 2020. He was shot dead by North Korean soldiers upon capture the next day.
Seoul’s defense ministry said his killers burnt his corpse out of fear of possible Covid-19 contamination, while Pyongyang claimed its soldiers only burnt his belongings.
The family decided to submit a criminal complaint against the three former high-ranking officials in the Moon Jae-in administration after the Defense Ministry and Coast Guard held a joint press conference on June 16, admitting that there was no evidence that Lee intended to defect — contrary to the Coast Guard’s report soon after his death.
Speaking to reporters outside the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office soon after submitting the criminal complaint, lawyer Kim Gi-yoon noted that the Defense Ministry said last week it was directed by the National Security on Sept. 27, 2020 to look into Lee’s death as a case of a northbound defection.
Based on this, the attorney expressed his belief that the Coast Guard’s report at the time, which was the only official finding released on Lee’s case, was “the result of a cover-up ordered by the office of the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs.”
Kim said that Lee’s family wanted prosecutors, and not the Corruption Investigation Office for High-Ranking Officials (CIO), to lead the probe into Lee’s death.
The CIO was established by the Democratic Party and the Moon administration to weaken the power of the state prosecution service, which they believed to be politically biased.
“It would add insult to injury if officials who served in the Moon administration were investigated by a CIO chief who was appointed by the Moon administration,” said Kim.
Last week’s revelation by the Defense Ministry and Coast Guard that there was no evidence of a defection by Lee touched off a firestorm.
People Power Party (PPP) floor leader Kwon Seong-dong accused Moon’s liberal Democratic Party (DP) of prioritizing inter-Korean relations over the truth about a South Korean official’s murder, while DP interim leader Woo Sang-ho accused the PPP of imperiling Seoul’s intelligence assets by demanding a full disclosure of now-sealed presidential records concerning the incident.
The Presidential Archives told Lee’s family on Thursday that it could not unseal documents pertaining to the incident, citing the legal requirement for a two-thirds majority vote in the National Assembly or an order from a chief judge of the Seoul High Court to do so.
BY MICHAEL LEE [email@example.com]