Murdered official's son writes to UN rapporteur
“I am writing this letter to you because I want to let you know about North Korean human rights violations, and to make sure such acts are not repeated again,” wrote the son of Lee Dae-jun in a letter to Elizabeth Salmon on Tuesday, obtained exclusively by the JoongAng Ilbo.
The son's full name was not published.
“North Korea killed an unarmed civilian, burned his body, and deprived the family even of his remains,” he continued. “Yet the Moon Jae-in government has justified the North’s acts by calling my father a defector to the North, all the while not issuing once a sincere apology to my family.”
Lee goes on to mention how government records on the murder of his father were sealed from public view for 15 years by Moon, calling on Salmon to ensure that a similar incident does not take place.
Lee Dae-jun, an official in the Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans, was on duty south of Yeonpyeong Island near the Northern Limit Line, 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.
At the time of Lee’s death, authorities in Seoul said that North Korean soldiers burned his body out of fear of Covid-19 infection.
The Coast Guard concluded shortly after the incident that Lee was trying to defect to the North to escape a large gambling debt – a finding that was disavowed by the Defense Ministry and Coast Guard on June 16, when both admitted at a joint press conference that there was no evidence that Lee intended to defect.
Lee’s family lodged a suit against the Moon administration to demand disclosure of documents related to the case, and in November 2021 the Seoul Administrative Court ruled in their favor.
The Moon administration appealed, and a second trial was ongoing when the Yoon Suk-yeol administration, inaugurated in May, cancelled the appeal and handed over documents concerning the case on June 16.
By this time, the Moon administration, by presidential order, had selectively sealed some documents in the case from public view for 15 years.
When Lee’s family asked the Presidential Archives, which holds such documents, to disclose the records, the archives denied the request.
In April, the family filed another suit with the Constitutional Court of Korea questioning the constitutionality of the law that allows the government to seal documents for 15 years -- even after they were ordered by a court to be disclosed.
Salmon began her work as UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in North Korea on Monday. She is reportedly expected to visit Korea this month.
“It is well known that the human rights situation in the DPRK has become more difficult during the past two and a half years due to the severe measures taken to address the Covid-19 pandemic,” Salmon said in a statement on Monday. “It is urgent to find effective ways to bring relief and humanitarian assistance and dialogue and cooperation to improve the human rights situation to the country.”
BY PARK HYUN-JU,ESTHER CHUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]