Martial law probe falters as suspect can’t be foundA special investigation team’s probe into allegations that the military’s intelligence unit drafted martial law plans under the previous administration was suspended Wednesday after it failed to track down a key suspect.
The special joint military and prosecution team announced the interim results of their four-month probe at the Seoul Eastern District Prosecutors’ Office. They were not able to find Cho Hyun-chun, the former chief of the military’s now disbanded Defense Security Command (DSC) and a primary suspect behind the drafting of an extensive martial law document.
Cho left for the United States last December. The investigators concluded that it would not be possible to continue the probe without having him in custody, so they are suspending the investigation for the time being.
In July, a lawmaker revealed that the DSC had drawn up a contingency plan for martial law last year in case the Constitutional Court rejected the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye. This included procedures to arrest opposition lawmakers and civilians for what the DSC defined as “anti-state activities.”
Later that month, the military and prosecution’s special investigation was launched over allegations that the DSC drew up to a martial law plan. In August, President Moon Jae-in formally disbanded the controversial DSC and replaced it with a scaled-down new intelligence unit. Park was removed from office in March 2017 when the Constitutional Court upheld her impeachment by the National Assembly following months of candlelight vigils protesting her administration’s corruption and abuse of power.
The special team questioned 204 people, including current and former DSC officials, and conducted search and seizures on some 90 locations. Cho was found to have visited the Blue House four times between October 2016 and May 2017 using “a strange route” not usually used to access the Blue House as President Park awaited impeachment, according to the probe.
An arrest warrant was issued for Cho in September, and his passport has been invalidated. Seoul asked for cooperation from the International Police Cooperation Agency (Interpol) to locate him on Oct. 16. The special team said that it would resume its investigation when Cho is in its custody.
It effectively suspended its probes into eight prominent figures of authority, including former President Park, then-Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, former Defense Minister Han Min-koo and Kim Kwan-jin, then-chief of the Blue House National Security Office, until Cho is arrested.
The team explained that it would not be possible to find out who ordered Cho to draft the martial law documents without securing his testimony first. Park and Hwang could both face charges of conspiracy to commit rebellion. Cho also faces charges of conspiracy to rebellion. The head of the joint special team, Noh Man-seok, said that “we are gathering impartial evidence to prove this” while awaiting his arrest.
Prosecutors booked three DSC commissioned officers without detention on charges of faking public documents in order to conceal the martial law plans. These officials were said to have set up a task force that disguised martial law plans by drawing up fake documents on Key Resolve military drills.
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]