Presidential office official says Yoon ‘scolded’ Marine investigators

Posted on : 2024-06-03 17:53 KST Modified on : 2024-06-03 17:53 KST
This effective acknowledgment of involvement by the president will likely mean that Yoon will be subject to some form of questioning
President Yoon Suk-yeol and former Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup. (Yonhap)
President Yoon Suk-yeol and former Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup. (Yonhap)

An investigation into the response to the death of a Marine during flood rescue efforts last year has taken a new turn after a senior official in the presidential office effectively acknowledged President Yoon Suk-yeol’s involvement in the case.

Questioning of presidential office officials and Yoon himself now appears inevitable, if only to establish the exact content of his orders.

In a telephone interview with the Hankyoreh last Friday, a senior official with the presidential office said, “The Marine investigation team did not have investigation authority, and when they came out with a long list of suspects, contrary to what the Military Court Act stipulates, I imagine the president scolded them and told them to fix that.”

According to this explanation, Yoon issued the instruction at a presidential office meeting on the morning of July 31, 2023. Upon hearing a report on the findings of a Marine investigation team — which included accusations against former 1st Marine Division commander Lim Seong-geun — he issued instructions demanding corrective action, the source claimed.

The emergence of various evidence and eyewitness accounts — including the Hankyoreh’s previous report confirming that an attendee at the July 31 presidential office meeting told ruling People Power Party figures that Yoon had “lost his temper” there — appears to have prompted the adoption of a new defensive argument after the office could no longer deny speculation over the president’s outburst.

The question is whether a president has the authority to overturn a decision by a military investigative body.

According to the Military Police Duties Act, it is the chief of staff for the respective branch of the military who directs or oversees the duties of military police in units affiliated with that branch. In the case of the Marines, that makes the Marine Corps commandant the one who oversees general duties by Marine investigation teams.

For the case in question, authority to direct the specific case can be seen as having been entrusted to former Marine investigation team leader Park Jeong-hun. Because of that, the precise content of Yoon’s instructions would need to be confirmed to determine whether he could be subject to accusations of abuse of authority and obstruction of the exercise of authority.

To make this determination, questioning regarding Yoon’s orders on July 31 of last year appears inevitable — along with a probe into the content of three telephone calls that he made to then-Minister of National Defense Lee Jong-sup the following Aug. 2. As a directly involved party, Yoon himself would need to be questioned as part of the process.

But since there is no precedent for an investigative body summoning a currently serving president for questioning, any actual questioning is very likely to take place through written statements or a visit to the president.

The presidential office downplayed the significance of the senior official’s comments, calling them a “personal opinion” and insisting that they were not the office’s official stance.

Commenting Sunday on the telephone conversations between Yoon and Lee regarding the case, a key presidential office official said it was the office’s “consistent position that this is a matter to be clarified by the CIO through an examination,” referring to the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials.

The same official said the other senior official’s comment was “merely a personal opinion with a considerable amount of speculation.”

“This matter is currently being investigated by the CIO, and it would be inappropriate to comment on the case, as any reference by the presidential office has the potential to become an investigation guideline,” they explained.

By Jeon Gwang-joon, staff reporter; Lee Seung-jun, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to []

button that move to original korean article (클릭시 원문으로 이동하는 버튼)

Related stories

Most viewed articles