Yoon rejects Coast Guard resignations over Yellow Sea murder

이준혁 2022. 6. 26. 18:00
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Kim Gi-yoon, an attorney representing the family, cited the Defense Ministry's June 16 press release, in which the ministry said it was directed by the Office of National Security on Sept. 27, 2020 to look into Lee's death as a case of a northbound defection, as evidence of a "cover-up ordered by the office of the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs."

Ha reiterated his party's argument that the Moon administration "committed character assassination" against the slain official and his family "while ignoring the truth," and that a parliamentary committee was "essential" to fulfill the "state's obligation to protect the people and prevent such an incident from happening again."

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President Yoon Suk-yeol on Friday rejected the resignations of Korea Coast Guard leaders over their mishandling of the 2020 disappearance and murder in the North of a fisheries official.
The Democratic Party's interim leader Woo Sang-ho speaks at a press conference at the National Assembly on Sunday. [YONHAP]

President Yoon Suk-yeol on Friday rejected the resignations of Korea Coast Guard leaders over their mishandling of the 2020 disappearance and murder in the North of a fisheries official.

Commissioner General Jeong Bong-Hun and eight other senior Coast Guard officials had offered to resign earlier in the day as questions arose over their investigation into the case, which it at the time concluded was a rare instance of a South Korean defecting to the North.

According to an official from the presidential office who spoke to the JoongAng Ilbo on condition of anonymity, Yoon rejected their resignation offers, citing the need to investigate the handling of the incident.

"Their collective resignation offer will be rejected as preparations are underway to reveal the truth, including an investigation by the Board of Audit and Inspection," the official said.

The Coast Guard said during a press conference with the Defense Ministry on June 16 that there was no evidence to support its earlier conclusion that Lee Dae-jun, an official at the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, intended to defect when he disappeared in September 2020 while on duty south of Yeonpyeong Island, near the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the inter-Korean boundary in the Yellow Sea.

The Coast Guard under the Moon Jae-in administration issued a report that Lee had been shot dead by North Korean soldiers in the process of "voluntarily" attempting to defect, which military authorities attributed to a gambling debt. Seoul's defense ministry said Lee's killers burned his corpse out of fear of possible Covid-19 contamination, while Pyongyang claimed its soldiers only burned his belongings.

Lee's family on Wednesday filed criminal complaints at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office against Suh Hoon, former National Security Office chief, Kim Jong-ho, former senior secretary to the president for civil affairs, and Lee Kwang-cheol, former civil affairs secretary, alleging the trio obstructed of justice, abuses of authority and falsified documents about Lees disappearance and death.

Kim Gi-yoon, an attorney representing the family, cited the Defense Ministry's June 16 press release, in which the ministry said it was directed by the Office of National Security on Sept. 27, 2020 to look into Lee's death as a case of a northbound defection, as evidence of a "cover-up ordered by the office of the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs."

The allegations have heightened quarreling between the main political parties over the Moon administration's handling of the slain official's case.

Moon's liberal Democratic Party (DP) announced at a Sunday press conference it would form its own task force to look into the case to counter the conservative People Power Party's (PPP) allegations of a Blue House cover-up.

Woo Sang-ho, DP interim leader, said the PPP's response to the Yellow Sea murder case "is too political and distorting facts." He previously criticized the PPP for reversing its own agreement with the initial official opinion that Lee intended to defect, saying the party had seized the case to cast the Moon administration and the DP in an unfavorable light.

PPP lawmaker Ha Tae-keung, who is serving as the chief of the party's task force looking into the case, responded by calling on Woo to cooperate with the formation of a dedicated committee in the National Assembly to investigate the incident and the cover-up allegations.

"I believe we should form a special parliamentary fact-finding committee," Ha wrote in a post on social media Sunday.

Ha reiterated his party's argument that the Moon administration "committed character assassination" against the slain official and his family "while ignoring the truth," and that a parliamentary committee was "essential" to fulfill the "state's obligation to protect the people and prevent such an incident from happening again."

BY MICHAEL LEE [lee.junhyuk@joongang.co.kr]

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