Former gov’t officials counter allegations over slain fisheries official case

SEOUL– Top officials of the previous Moon Jae-in administration accused the current government of using the 2020 death of a South Korean fisheries official by North Korea as a tool for political retaliation, claiming the Moon administration did not manipulate the case.

The Moon administration has been accused of concluding without sufficient evidence that the fisheries official, Lee Dae-jun, was killed while attempting to defect to North Korea in what critics say was part of efforts to curry favor with Pyognyang.

Former Defense Minister Suh Wook and former Coast Guard Commissioner General Kim Hong-hee were arrested over the past weekend on document fabrication and other charges. Other top officials could face charges in the expanding investigation.

Earlier this month, the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) announced the result of its two-month inspection into the Moon government’s handling of the case and requested the prosecution investigate 20 people from five government agencies involved in the case.

On Thursday, former presidential chief of staff Noh Young-min, former National Intelligence Service Director Park Jie-won and former national security adviser Suh Hoon held a joint press conference, claiming they reached the conclusion through rational reasoning and accusing the auditor of distorting the truth.

“Special intelligence at the time showed Lee expressing his intention to defect to the North … How can including this intelligence in our judgment be a manipulation?” they said.

“We cannot imagine making groundless manipulations over a citizen’s life and honor,” Suh said.

The officials also denied allegations the then government did not do enough to save Lee, saying it was impossible to rescue Lee as he was in North Korean waters.

The current government should provide clear grounds and judgment on why Lee disappeared if it believes otherwise, they said, adding they had no reason or benefit to manipulate the case.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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