DP cries foul over probe of Moon in 2020 murder at sea
The Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) has told former President Moon Jae-in that it wants to question him about the handling of a South Korean fisheries official killed by North Koreans in 2020.
Moon’s Democratic Party (DP) said President Yoon Suk-yeol is going after his predecessor and vowed Monday to file a complaint with the state anticorruption agency for abuse of power.
DP officials revealed Sunday that Moon had been notified by phone and email in late September about an investigation into his administration’s handling of the murder of a 47-year-old fisheries official by North Korean soldiers in the Yellow Sea in September 2020.
The BAI sent a written questionnaire to Moon in Pyeongsan Village in Yangsan, South Gyeongsang.
This is the first time the Yoon administration has pursued a direct investigation into Moon.
In a press conference Monday morning, DP Rep. Youn Kun-young, a former director of the Blue House office of state affairs planning and monitoring under Moon, said that the BAI first called Moon’s secretariat to request a written investigation on Sept. 28.
He said Moon’s aides asked the BAI to confirm exactly what it is trying to investigate and said the former president refused to accept the written questionnaire. The BAI was said to have then sent an email to the Pyeongsan secretariat, who returned the mail to the sender.
Moon was informed of the BAI notification last Friday and said he was “extremely displeased” with the BAI’s plan, calling it “a very rude act,” according to Youn.
In a separate press conference Monday, DP lawmakers said they plan to file a complaint with the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO), accusing the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) of “abuse of power.”
The lawmakers described the probe of Moon as an act of “political retaliation” by the Yoon government.
It has been nearly three months since the Yoon administration reopened the case of the mysterious death of the South Korean fisheries official, Lee Dae-jun, who disappeared while on duty just south of the inter-Korean maritime border and was later fatally shot and burned by North Korean soldiers on Sept. 22, 2020.
The Moon government initially concluded that Lee had been attempting to defect to North Korea and that the North Koreans seemed to have killed him and burned his corpse out of fear of Covid-19 infection. South Korean military authorities said it reached those conclusions based on wiretapping and circumstantial evidence, such as Lee being in gambling debt.
But Lee’s relatives and the conservative People Power Party (PPP) disputed those conclusions and called for the release of confidential information on the murder.
Last June 16, the Ministry of National Defense and Coast Guard under the Yoon government apologized for saying that Lee defected and admitted there was no evidence to support that conclusion.
In July, the BAI said that it would investigate related agencies involved in the case, including the Blue House National Security Office, Defense Ministry, National Intelligence Service (NIS) and the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries.
Moon’s top security officials including former NIS Directors Park Jie-won and Suh Hoon and former Defense Minister Suh Wook have been accused of mishandling cases related to North Korea. The NIS filed a complaint with the Supreme Prosecutors Office against former NIS chiefs Park and Suh in July for deleting documents related to North Korea-related cases.
Lawmakers on the DP committee on political repression questioned why Moon was sent a written inquiry when investigations into his former NIS chiefs were not yet concluded. They accused the Yoon administration of being out to get Moon with a “prosecution investigator” mindset and waging “politics of terror.”
Yoon’s PPP, in turn, criticized Moon for refusing to receive the written inquiries, saying he would be labeled an “irresponsible president.”
“Former President Moon expressed strong displeasure and refused to even receive the questionnaire,” said Rep. Jang Dong-hyeok, a PPP floor leader spokesman, in a statement Monday.
In a statement later Monday, the BAI said that written inquiries are typically sent to former presidents in an investigation, in accordance with Article 50 of the Board of Audit and Inspection Act.
It said that former presidents Roh Tae-woo in 1993 and Kim Young-sam in 1998 had been sent written questionnaires and they submitted responses. Other presidents like Lee Myung-bak in 2017 and Park Geun-hye in 2018 rejected such requests, and the BAI proceeded with what information was available.
The BAI said it plans to end its probe into the case on Oct. 14.
Prosecutors are also investigating the case separately from the BAI.
BY SARAH KIM [email@example.com]