Arrest warrant sought for former national security adviser Suh Hoon
Prosecutors asked for the arrest of former national security adviser Suh Hoon over allegations that he ordered the deletion of evidence in the murder of a South Korean fisheries official by North Korean soldiers in 2020.
This was the first time an arrest warrant was sought for a senior official from the Moon Jae-in administration. Suh was director of the Blue House National Security Office (NSO) from July 2020 to May this year.
The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office on Tuesday applied for an arrest warrant for Suh on allegations of abuse of power and falsifying of documents.
Prosecutors are investigating the process in which the Moon government came to the conclusion that the 47-year-old fisheries official, Lee Dae-jun, had been trying to defect to North Korea.
Suh is accused of ordering officials to delete numerous documents about Lee’s murder to obscure crucial details related to the Moon government’s claim Lee was trying to defect.
The prosecution determined that an arrest warrant was needed because of the seriousness of the case and worries about the destruction of more evidence.
On Sept. 22, 2020, North Korean soldiers fatally shot Lee and burned his corpse after he disappeared while on duty south of Yeonpyeong Island near the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the de facto inter-Korean maritime border, in the Yellow Sea the previous day.
At the time, South Korean military officials said the soldiers burned Lee’s body out of Covid-19 fears. They also claimed that Lee tried to escape the South due to a hefty gambling debt.
In June, the Ministry of National Defense and the Coast Guard under the conservative Yoon Suk-yeol administration admitted in a press conference that there was no evidence to support the claim that Lee was trying to defect.
After two months of investigation, the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) announced on Oct. 13 that Suh ordered government agencies to assert that Lee attempted to defect to the North despite insufficient evidence. The BAI asked the prosecution to investigate 20 people, including top security officials in the Moon administration, on allegations of covering up and distorting facts related to Lee’s death.
Suh is accused of holding a ministerial meeting at 1 a.m. Sept. 23, 2020, the day after Lee’s death, hastily concluding that Lee had been “voluntarily” defecting to the North and ordering officials to delete intelligence documents related to this.
He is further accused of ordering related agencies such as the Ministry of National Defense, National Intelligence Service (NIS) and the Coast Guard to draw up falsified documents and press releases to support the claim that Lee was trying to defect.
Suh has denied the allegations, saying he was transparent in the process and never ordered anyone to delete any data.
In a press conference on Oct. 27, top security officials from the Moon administration including Suh rejected the Yoon government’s allegations that they tampered with evidence to portray the murdered official as a defector. Suh was joined by former NIS Director Park Jie-won and former Blue House Chief of Staff Noh Young-min.
Over Nov. 24 and 25, prosecutors summoned Suh and questioned him.
Prosecutors are also investigating whether Suh was involved in the controversial repatriation of two North Korean fishermen in 2019.
BY SARAH KIM [email@example.com]