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Army division commander under probe over destroying Sewol documents

The military prosecution is investigating an incumbent Army division commander who is suspected of ordering his staff to shred documents on the 2014 Sewol ferry sinking while he was working at the presidential office in 2017.

Kwon Young-ho, commander of the Army’s 22th Division, allegedly instructed his subordinates to destroy two boxes of documents on the Sewol accident without lawful procedures in July 2017. He was serving as chief of the crisis management center at Cheong Wa Dae at the time. The documents included reports made to former President Park Geun-hye at the time of the accident.

The military prosecution is investigating Kwon on charges of violating the law on public records management, according to the Defense Ministry. The presidential office reportedly requested the ministry for the probe.


According to the law, public records can be discarded only after inspection by an archives management specialist and deliberation by an archives evaluation council.

The shredding of the documents took place when the Moon Jae-in administration was taking over the crisis management center from the Park administration.

On July 17, 2017, Moon’s presidential office announced that it found 1,361 documents of the Park administration on the Sewol sinking, the agreement between Korea and Japan on the “comfort women” issue, and a blacklist of artists, in a file cabinet in the office of the senior presidential secretary for political affairs.

The military prosecution has questioned Kwon and is summoning others who worked at the crisis management center at the time and were involved in the shredding of the documents.

The prosecution had looked into the case earlier but failed to confirm the allegations against Kwon.

In October 2017, the presidential office requested the prosecution investigate the alleged altering of the time log on the initial reports made to Park on Sewol’s sinking.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office at the time confirmed that some documents on the ferry accident had been destroyed but closed the case without indicting anyone involved, saying it could not find out the content of the shredded documents.

Kwon was appointed as chief of the crisis management center in April 2016 under Park and served until January 2018 under the Moon administration.

By Kim So-hyun (