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NSC intervened in ministry decision on South Korean killed by NK: lawmaker

Rep. Ha Tae-keung (Yonhap)
Rep. Ha Tae-keung (Yonhap)
South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense flip-flopped on its announcement in regards to the case of a South Korean man killed by North Korean troops in 2020, in response to orders from a top official from the National Security Council, a lawmaker claimed Thursday.

Rep. Ha Tae-keung of the People Power Party told reporters Thursday that Suh Choo-suk, former first deputy director of the NSC under the Moon Jae-in administration, had an official document sent to the Defense Ministry with instructions to change the ministry’s position on the status of a South Korean man named Lee Dae-jun who was killed by North Korean troops.

Lee was fatally shot by North Korean troops on Sept. 22, 2020, near the inter-Korean maritime border after he went missing a day earlier while on duty on a fishery inspection boat. The Coast Guard and Defense Ministry afterward said that Lee may have been attempting to defect to the North.

But the two organizations announced last week that they had not found any circumstances backing this pronouncement, and the bereaved family accused Moon’s presidential office of controlling the administrative branch and agencies to make announcements in its favor.

Ha said in his talks with reporters that Suh ordered the ministry to change the announcement that Lee’s body was “confirmed” to have been burnt to “speculated” to have been burnt, arguing that Suh’s order itself showed that Moon’s presidential office ordered that facts on the case be changed to its favor.

The Ministry of National Defense on Sept. 24, 2020 announced that North Korea “fired bullets at our citizen and burned the corpse,” but three days later on Sept. 27, the ministry changed its stance, saying “it is speculated that the body was burnt, and we need joint investigations to verify facts.”

Suh refuted that he had not made any orders to rig facts, saying he only sought to minimize confusion as South Korea and North Korea had different use of words and phrases in making announcements regarding the case.

By Ko Jun-tae (ko.juntae@heraldcorp.com)
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