The Korea Herald


Former defense minister, ex-Coast Guard chief arrested over slain fisheries official

By Yonhap

Published : Oct. 22, 2022 - 09:46

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Former Defense Minister Seo Wook enters the Seoul Central District Court on Friday. (Yonhap) Former Defense Minister Seo Wook enters the Seoul Central District Court on Friday. (Yonhap)

Former Defense Minister Suh Wook and former Coast Guard Commissioner General Kim Hong-hee were arrested Saturday over their alleged mishandling of the death of a fisheries official in September 2020 at the hands of North Korea.

The Seoul Central District Court issued the arrest warrants for them, citing the risk of them fleeing or destroying evidence, after hearings held Friday.

The prosecution requested the arrest warrants for both Suh and Kim on Tuesday in connection with the previous Moon Jae-in government's conclusion without sufficient evidence that the fisheries official was attempting to defect to the North when he was killed.

They are facing charges that include dereliction of duty, abuse of power and forging official documents.

Critics have accused the Moon administration of drawing the conclusion to curry favor with Pyongyang.

Prosecutors suspect Suh deliberately erased intelligence reports that suggest the official, Lee Dae-jun, did not intend to defect and ordered officials to write false facts for a report for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Kim -- who was responsible for an investigation into the death at the time -- is under suspicion of using fabricated facts to conclude that Lee had intended to defect.

Both of them denied the allegations during the prosecution questioning, according to sources.

The 47-year-old fisheries official was fatally shot by the North's coast guard near the Yellow Sea border between the two Koreas, a day after going missing while on duty on board a fishery inspection vessel.

The Moon government concluded the official was shot and killed while trying to defect to the North. But the Coast Guard and the military reversed the conclusion in June, saying there was no evidence to suggest such motives.

Earlier, the state auditor also requested the prosecution to investigate 20 people, including top security officials of the previous government, on charges of covering up and distorting facts in the case.

Among them are former National Security Adviser Suh Hoon and former National Intelligence Service chief Park Jie-won.

Prosecutors are also expected to question Suh and Park sometime soon. (Yonhap)