Ex-defense, maritime police chiefs summoned for prearrest questioning

Ex-defense, maritime police chiefs summoned for prearrest questioning

Former defense minister Seo Wook (left) and former coast guard commissioner Kim Hong-hee appeared at court for prearrest questioning on Friday. (Yonhap)

A Seoul court summoned former chiefs of national defense and maritime police for questioning on Friday, after prosecutors filed for a warrant to arrest them in an investigation into North Korea’s killing of South Korean fisheries official Lee Dae-jun two years ago.

Appearing at the Seoul central district court at around 9:40 a.m., Seo Wook, who was minister of national defense at the time, declined to respond to reporter questions.

Seo is accused of falsifying documents and ordering destruction of military intelligence reports created in the circumstances leading to and after the killing.

Then-Coast Guard Commissioner Kim Hong-hee, who showed up at court later the same day, faces accusations of withholding evidence that may counter the government conclusion at the time that Lee was defecting to North Korea.

Aside from Seo and Kim, prosecutors investigating possible mishandling by South Korean authorities in Lee’s death and the subsequent cover-up suspect others who held high-level posts at Cheong Wa Dae and the National Intelligence of involvement.

Kim Ki-yun, the lawyer representing the late official’s family, submitted a letter asking the court to issue warrants for their arrest.

In the letter, the family argued that as key accusations facing them include tampering with evidence, they could be capable of doing the same while still afforded freedom.

“They should not be able to conduct the investigation and court proceedings without being arrested,” they said, adding that “the most rigorous investigation” was in order.

Kim said that Park Jie-won, who is accused of expunging National Intelligence Service records related to Lee’s case while serving as its director, was continuing to hurt the victim’s family in press interviews.

“It is absolutely outrageous that the first actions taken by the national defense minister, just after a government official of this country was killed by North Korea, was to have the key records deleted,” he said, citing the Board of Audit and Inspection’s report.

He said the records, allegedly deleted at Seo’s order, would have been instrumental in determining what happened in the final moments of his death, as well as North Korea’s motives in killing him.

By Kim Arin ([email protected])

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