Suh Hoon, ex-spy chief and former President Moon Jae-in’s national security director, was summoned to Seoul court on Friday for a questioning after prosecutors filed for an arrest warrant against him in an investigation into North Korea’s killing of South Korean fisheries official, Lee Dae-jun.
Suh is accused of ordering the deletion of intelligence reports related to Lee’s case -- the day after he was shot then burned by North Korean soldiers on Sept. 9, 2020 -- while he was the national security director at Moon’s Cheong Wa Dae.
He is also accused of being behind the falsification of documents produced by the Ministry of National Defense, the Coast Guard and the National Intelligence Service at the time to present that Lee had died trying to defect to North Korea.
A day prior to the court’s questioning of Suh, Moon said in a statement that he was the one who had the final say in what he called the West Sea case. Lee was killed in the waters off the west coast of the Korean peninsula near the maritime border.
So far there hasn’t been “another convincing explanation as to how the victim got to North Korean waters” other than the conclusion reached previously, which is that Lee had defected on his own.
“It was the president who gave the final approval on the West Sea case after being briefed by the Ministry of National Defense, the Coast Guard and the National Intelligence Service,” he said.
“Our national security authorities arrived at the conclusion after obtaining all obtainable information at a time when it was difficult to do so, and the president reviewed what’s known as special intelligence himself and accepted that conclusion.”
Moon said that after the new administration was sworn in, the conclusion that was reached was reversed, while “there were no circumstances to warrant these changes to the conclusion.”
“I express deep concerns over the politicization of matters of national security and the senseless handling that incapacitates the national security system,” he said.
“Please do not cross the line.”
Lee Rae-jin, the fisheries official’s older brother, said in response that his family “hasn’t been provided a convincing explanation or evidence” to believe he was leaving his country behind to move to North Korea.
“My family has been begging for that evidence, and we won the disclosure suit against Cheong Wa Dae. But the president locked those records away,” he said.
The Moon administration designated records related to Lee’s case as material for presidential archives, keeping them secret for 15 years, against the court order to grant the family access.
“The family has the right to know what our country did to save him while he was alive, and why he had to die. As far as I’m concerned that’s not crossing the line,” he said.
He also said that Moon had earlier promised to his late brother’s son that he would “make sure that the entire process is transparent.”
“But you hid the records. That’s the opposite of what you promised.”
As Suh arrived at court on Friday morning he was greeted by seven Democratic Party of Korea lawmakers including Reps. Youn Kun-young and Park Beom-kye, who were Moon’s Cheong Wa Dae secretary and justice minister, respectively.
Youn has said that the ongoing investigation into Lee’s case was “targeting the Moon administration.”
“If former President Moon had the final say, then he has a responsibility to the family left behind,” Rep. Tae Young-ho of ruling People Power Party said in a statement.
He pointed out that Moon wasn’t present at the very first meetings convened before and after Lee was killed. Neither did he take any measures in the hours since being briefed that the government employee was found in the North Korean waters.
The court is due to decide whether to approve the request for Suh’s arrest warrant in the next two days.