Seoul Tightens Grip on Former Defense Chief Amid Probe and Ambassadorial Appointment

Seoul - In a move that underscores the South Korean government's commitment to accountability, the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO) has restricted former Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup from international travel. This decision arises from his alleged involvement in a case that questions the integrity of military conduct and decision-making, particularly surrounding the tragic death of a Marine.

According to Yonhap News Agency, the CIO enforced the travel ban on Lee in January, well ahead of his recent nomination as South Korea's ambassador to Australia. This decision came to light as the Foreign Ministry disclosed Lee's ambassadorial appointment on Monday, sparking controversy given his ongoing investigation. Lee is scrutinized for potentially obstructing an internal Marine investigation into Corporal Chae Su-geun's death, who perished during a search operation in adverse weather conditions last July.

Critics argue that Lee might have used his influence to delay the probe's findings, which were examining if Chae was compelled to continue the hazardous mission without adequate safety protocols. Furthermore, the Marine investigator leading the Chae inquiry faces legal action for insubordination and defamation, accused of transferring investigation details to civilian authorities contrary to Lee's directives.

With Lee's departure for Australia on the horizon, the CIO is reportedly devising strategies to ensure their investigation remains unaffected. They might interrogate Lee before he assumes his ambassadorial post or conditionally revoke the travel restriction, demanding his cooperation with the ongoing probe from abroad. The developments suggest a critical juncture for South Korean justice and governance, particularly in addressing allegations of misconduct within its defense hierarchy.

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