Democrats decry launch of probe into Moon-era NIS chiefs as retaliation by Yoon

Posted on : 2022-07-07 17:39 KST Modified on : 2022-07-07 17:39 KST
Park Jie-won and Suh Hoon, former heads of the NIS, were accused of violating the National Intelligence Act
Park Jie-won and Suh Hoon (Yonhap News)
Park Jie-won and Suh Hoon (Yonhap News)

On Wednesday, the National Intelligence Service (NIS) filed criminal complaints against two former directors of the agency, Park Jie-won and Suh Hoon, on charges of violating the National Intelligence Service Act in relation to the 2020 shooting death of a civil servant, the Yoon Suk-yeol administration taking direct aim at the two NIS directors of the Moon Jae-in administration only two months into its term.

The controversy surrounding the death of Lee Dae-jun, a civil servant who two years ago went missing in the waters off the western coast of Korea and was subsequently shot and killed, about which the People Power Party and the ruling camp began raising persistent questions last month, will now be investigated by the prosecution service, which is predicted to lead to a maelstrom of accusations against the previous administration for perceived bias toward the North.

The NIS announced Wednesday that it had filed a criminal complaint against Park for violating the National Intelligence Service Act for abuse of authority and for damaging official electronic records for allegedly deleting intelligence-related reports without authorization in relation to the September 2020 death of Lee.

The NIS also stated that regarding the case of the North Korean fishers who defected and were subsequently sent back to the North in November 2019, it had brought charges against Suh and others for violating the National Intelligence Service Act by falsifying official documents to allegedly conclude the joint investigation prematurely.

As the NIS noted that it had charged Park as well as “others,” many more NIS officials may have been charged by the agency along with its former director.

Having received the complaint, the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office appointed the case to the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office on the same day.

According to an NIS official, the intelligence agency formed an independent task force in June to conduct an investigation into the case via its employees. The official commented, “Because [the case] has been of national interest, and because questions have been raised regarding the role of the NIS, [the NIS] formed an independent task force for fact-finding purposes.”

Earlier, on June 16, the Ministry of National Defense and the Coast Guard reversed their announcement from two years ago, stating that they “did not find evidence to demonstrate a motivation for defection” regarding Lee. Immediately afterward, the People Power Party formed a fact-finding task force concerning the case, and even Yoon personally mentioned the case of the North Korean fishermen repatriated in 2019, turning up the pressure on the previous administration.

On Nov. 2, 2019, during the term of Moon Jae-in, a North Korean fishing boat crossed over the Northern Limit Line. On Nov. 5, after four days of a joint investigation, the Moon administration notified North Korea that the fishermen would be deported.

At the time, the Ministry of Unification announced that the fishermen were “identified to have run away after murdering [their] fellow crew members on a squid-jigging boat.”

During a phone call with the Hankyoreh, Park refuted the accusations against him, stating that the intelligence he allegedly deleted without authorization “cannot just be deleted, as it’s intelligence collected by intelligence authorities of South Korea and the US.”

“There’s no reason I would delete it,” he added.

Park also slammed the NIS on his Facebook page, posting that the agency “should stop writing fiction and stop using security matters to run a business.”

The Democratic Party also criticized the move by the spy agency, suggesting that the Yoon administration’s ultimate target is none other than Moon. The party’s spokesperson Oh Yeong-hwan wrote in a commentary, “It’s impossible not to ask whether the only reason Yoon seized power was to take revenge.”

By Seo Young-ji, staff reporter; Lim Jae-woo, staff reporter; Son Hyun-soo,

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