Fisheries official's family to sue Presidential Archives
Relatives of a South Korean fisheries official killed by North Korean soldiers in 2020 said Tuesday they plan to sue the Presidential Archives to obtain information on his mysterious disappearance while on duty in the Yellow Sea.
Lee Dae-jun, an official in the Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans, 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.
Lee’s older brother, Lee Rae-jin, said the family plans to file an administrative lawsuit on July 20 against the Presidential Archives under Article 20 of the Public Information Disclosure Act — after the funeral for their mother, Kim Mal-im, has concluded.
Kim passed away on Monday after a long battle with an undisclosed chronic illness, and was never told the fate of her younger son, whose body was burnt by the North Korean soldiers after his murder. Seoul said the soldiers set the corpse on fire out of fear of Covid-19 infection.
“My mother closed her eyes for the last time yesterday without knowing about her son’s death,” Lee said in a telephone interview with the JoongAng Ilbo on Tuesday. “Whenever she asked for my younger brother, I had no choice but to answer, ‘Dae-jun is out at sea on a boat.’”
Lee told the JoongAng Ilbo he planned to get the truth about his brother’s death by whatever means necessary, including suing the Presidential Archives.
The archives told the family on June 22 that it “has no records [related to the killing].”
In its response to the family’s request for information on the case, the archives specified that no documents on the murder exist among documents classified as public records, adding that it was still sorting out files marked for open access.
The archives also noted that documents marked as sealed records by former President Moon Jae-in’s administration could not be viewed for 15 years without the agreement of two-thirds of the National Assembly or an order from a higher court judge.
The family’s attorney Kim Ki-yoon believes Lee’s relatives have a chance to force the Presidential Archives to reveal sealed records related to his death.
“In November last year, Lee’s family won a lawsuit filed with the Seoul Administrative Court, and the court ordered the Moon administration to disclose documents related to the case except for those classified as military secrets,” Kim said.
Although the Moon administration immediately appealed that decision, President Yoon Suk-yeol’s government cancelled the appeal and handed over documents concerning the case on June 16 — the same day that the Defense Ministry and Coast Guard admitted at a joint press conference there was no evidence that Lee intended to defect to escape a gambling debt, as the Coast Guard claimed.
BY MICHAEL LEE [email@example.com]