Suspicions overrepatriation of defectors

Home > Opinion > Editorials

print dictionary print

Suspicions overrepatriation of defectors

Former Blue House Chief of Staff Noh Young-min was summoned and investigated by the prosecution Wednesday over the suspicious repatriation of two North Korean fishermen in November 2019. Noh is the highest-level official in the Moon Jae-in Blue House probed by prosecutors. The former chief of staff is suspected of abusing his power by presiding over a meeting and deciding to send them back to North Korea just two days after our navy seized them in the East Sea.

Evidence of forced repatriation was shown in photos and video of their repatriation against their will through Panmunjom. The prosecution has found that the two fishermen clearly expressed their intention to defect in a joint interrogation session. Prosecutors also discovered that the National Intelligence Service (NIS) had reported their intention to defect to the National Security Office in the Blue House.

As our Constitution defines North Korean defectors as South Korean people, the government cannot repatriate them against their will. Even if they had committed murders on the boat before heading to the south, they should be punished according to our criminal law. But the chief of staff decided to return them without proper grounds. After the decision by the chief of staff, the NIS deleted evidence of the intention to defect from its earlier report and delivered the revised one to the Ministry of Unification. The next day, the ministry notified Pyongyang of its intention to return them. Two days later, the government sent them back to North Korea by using a special police force. Such fast repatriation is unprecedented. The two defectors are known to have been executed in North Korea.

We wonder how the chief of staff, not a security expert, could make a decision fast despite apparent international criticism for human rights violations. Noh said he did not record what was discussed in the meeting, as it was just a “brief meeting.” That does not make sense.

Earlier, the prosecution requested arrest warrants for the former defense minister and the former commissioner general of the Korea Coast Guard over the tragic death of a South Korean fisheries official who was murdered and burned by the North Korean navy in the Yellow Sea in September 2020. The minister and commissioner general are suspected of having fabricated evidence to show the fisheries official tried to defect to North Korea voluntarily.

Even though all the developments point to the former commander in chief, Moon called the request from the Board of Audit and Inspection to answer its written questions about the tragic death of the fisheries official simply an “outrageous act.” The prosecution must get answers from Moon about the mysterious incidents that took place during his presidency.
Log in to Twitter or Facebook account to connect
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
help-image Social comment?
lock icon

To write comments, please log in to one of the accounts.

Standards Board Policy (0/250자)