South Korea’s former spy chiefs face probe for alleged favors to North

Seoul, Jul 7 (EFE).- South Korean prosecutors announced Thursday that it will investigate two former directors of the National Intelligence Service for alleged irregularities in the handling of two incidents involving North Korea that took place under the previous liberal administration.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office said that the investigations involve Park Jie-won, director of the NIS until May 11, and his predecessor, Suh Hoon.

Park and Suh were the two top intelligence officials under former President Moon Jae-in’s administration.

Prosecutors believe that the incidents in question were mishandled in order to appease the North Korean regime amid a process to improve inter-Korean ties that began in 2018.

On Wednesday, the service filed a complaint against Park, who is accused of deleting without authorization reports in regard to South Korean fisheries official Lee Dae-jun, who was brutally shot down by North Korean troops a day after he went missing at sea in September 2020.

The Moon government concluded that Lee died while trying to defect to the North but the assessment was overturned last month after the Coast Guard announced that there was not a single piece of evidence to show that the official wanted to flee to the neighboring country.

Park, who was director of the service for almost two years, defended his innocence in a radio interview on Wednesday.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in North Korea, Tomas Ojea Quintana, said a few days ago that Lee’s death was entirely the responsibility of the North Korean regime and that the case was a clear example of the draconian policies imposed by Pyongyang to prevent the entry of Covid-19 into its territory since 2020.

For its part, Lee’s family, which has claimed that the then-ruling Democratic Party offered them money to back the defection allegations, has threatened to sue the former South Korean president if all information pertaining to the case is not released.

The prosecution will also investigate Suh, who headed the NIS between 2017 and 2020, for allegedly ordering an early end to an probe into two North Korean fishermen, who confessed to having killed fellow crew members before fleeing to the South.

Both were sent back to the North within a few days, a somewhat irregular occurrence since the service’ standard investigation into a defector is 15 days.

Ojea Quintana has also said that Seoul should not have repatriated the fishermen immediately. EFE


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