Former national security adviser Suh indicted for power abuse

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Former national security adviser Suh indicted for power abuse

Suh Hoon, former director of the Blue House National Security Office (NSO), is surrounded by reporters at the Seoul Central District Court on Dec. 2. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

Suh Hoon, former director of the Blue House National Security Office (NSO), is surrounded by reporters at the Seoul Central District Court on Dec. 2. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

 
Former national security adviser Suh Hoon was indicted Friday for abuse of power and fabricating evidence in the murder at sea of a South Korean fisheries official by North Korean soldiers in 2020.  
 
He was the first senior official from the Moon Jae-in administration to be indicted. Suh was director of the Blue House National Security Office (NSO) from July 2020 to last May and was considered Moon's top security aide.  
 
The Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office have been looking into how Moon's government came to the conclusion that the 47-year-old fisheries official, Lee Dae-jun, was trying to defect to North Korea.
 
On Sept. 22, 2020, North Korean soldiers fatally shot Lee and burned his corpse. The previous day, he disappeared while on duty south of Yeonpyeong Island near the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the de facto inter-Korean maritime border, in the Yellow Sea.
 
At the time, South Korean military officials claimed that Lee was trying to escape gambling debts by trying to defect to North Korea. 
 
Last June, after power changed to the Yoon Suk-yeol administration, the Ministry of National Defense and Coast Guard admitted there was no evidence to support the idea that Lee was trying to defect.
 
On Friday, Suh was charged with abuse of power by ordering the suppression of information on Lee's murder, specifically South Korean military intelligence reports gathered through surveillance of North Korean communications. He is also accused of directing the Defense Ministry, National Intelligence Service and the Korea Coast Guard to report that Lee was killed in the process of trying to defect.
 
Suh was arrested on Dec. 3.  
 
The prosecution also indicted without detention on Friday Kim Hong-hee, a former Coast Guard commissioner general who was accused of manipulating evidence to support the idea that Lee was attempting to defect.
 
Kim is accused of distributing intentionally misleading press releases in the aftermath of the incident under the direction of Suh. He is also accused of giving false information to Lee's family, and defaming Lee.  
 
There is now interest in seeing whether the investigation will expand to Park Jie-won, former director of the National Intelligence Service (NIS). There is also the possibility that prosecutors may call in Moon for questioning.  
 
In a press conference on Oct. 27, top security officials from the Moon administration including Suh and Park rejected the Yoon government's allegations that they tampered with evidence to portray Lee as a defector.
 
A spokesperson for the conservative People Power Party (PPP) welcomed the indictments Friday "as an opportunity to reveal the truth," while a group from lawmakers of the liberal Democratic Party (DP) condemned them as "political retaliation."
 

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]
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