Seoul arrests ex-top security official over border killing

Dec 2, 2022, 5:25 AM | Updated: Dec 3, 2022, 5:04 am
Former South Korean National Security Director Suh Hoon, center, arrives at the Seoul Central Distr...

Former South Korean National Security Director Suh Hoon, center, arrives at the Seoul Central District Court in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. South Korean prosecutors arrested the country’s former national security director on Saturday over suspicions that he engaged in a cover-up to hide details and distort the circumstances surrounding North Korea’s killing of a South Korean fisheries official near the rivals’ sea boundary in 2020. (Han Sang-kyun/Yonhap via AP)

(Han Sang-kyun/Yonhap via AP)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s former national security director was arrested Saturday over a suspected cover-up surrounding North Korea’s killing of a South Korean fisheries official near the rivals’ sea boundary in 2020.

Suh Hoon’s arrest early Saturday came as President Yoon Suk Yeol’s conservative government investigates his liberal predecessor’s handling of that killing and another border incident the same year, cases that prompted criticism Seoul was desperately trying to appease the North to improve relations.

Former President Moon Jae-in, who staked his single-term on inter-Korean rapprochement before leaving office in May, has reacted angrily to the investigation into Suh’s actions. Moon issued a statement this week accusing Yoon’s government of raising groundless allegations and politicizing sensitive security matters.

Judge Kim Jeong-min of the Seoul Central District Court granted prosecutor’s request to arrest Suh over concerns that he may attempt to destroy evidence, the court said in a statement. Suh didn’t answer reporters’ questions about the allegations on Friday as he appeared at the court for a review over the prosecution’s warrant request.

A previous inquiry by South Korea’s Board of Audit and Inspection concluded that officials from Moon’s government made no meaningful attempt to rescue Lee Dae-jun after learning that the 47-year-old fisheries official was drifting in waters near the Koreas’ western sea boundary in September 2020.

After confirming that Lee had been fatally shot by North Korean troops, officials publicly played up the possibility that he had tried to defect to North Korea, citing his gambling debts and family issues, while withholding evidence suggesting he had no such intention, the audit board said in an October report.

Suh also served as Moon’s spy chief before being appointed as national security director two months before the killing. He faces suspicions that he used a Cabinet meeting to instruct officials to delete intelligence records related to the incident while the government crafted a public explanation of Lee’s death.

Suh is also suspected of ordering the Defense Ministry, National Intelligence Service, and the Coast Guard to portray Lee as trying to defect in their reports on his killing.

Critics say the Moon government went out of its way to paint Lee as unsympathetic as it tried to appease a nuclear-armed rival with a brutal human rights record.

In June, the Defense Ministry and coast guard reversed the Moon government’s description of the incident, saying there was no evidence that Lee had tried to defect.

Moon’s Democratic Party issued a statement criticizing Suh’s arrest, saying suspicions he might destroy evidence were unreasonable since “all the materials are in the hands of the Yoon Suk Yeol government.”

“The Defense Ministry, Coast Guard, National Intelligence Service and other security-related agencies have made a judgment on the Western Sea incident based on an analysis of information and circumstances,” the party said in a statement. It called the investigation a type of political vendetta.

Yoon’s government is separately investigating the 2019 forced repatriation of two North Korean fishermen, despite their reported wish to resettle in South Korea.

In July, the National Intelligence Service filed charges against Suh and his spy chief successor Park Jie-won for alleged abuse of power, destruction of public records and falsification of documents regarding the two cases.

The agency accused Park, who served as its director until May, of ordering the destruction of intelligence reports on Lee’s death. It accused Suh of forcibly closing an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the 2019 repatriation of the two North Korean fisherman captured in South Korean waters.

Critics say Moon’s government never provided a clear explanation of why it sent the two escapees back to the North to face possible execution. Moon’s officials described the men as criminals who confessed to murder and questioned the sincerity of their wish to defect.

Dozens of international organizations, including Human Rights Watch, issued a joint statement accusing Moon’s government of failing to provide due process or to “protect anyone who would be at substantial risk of torture or other serious human rights violations after repatriation.”

Moon left office with little to show for his engagement efforts with the North and the investigations into the two incidents have further tarnished his legacy.

Moon met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un three times in 2018 and lobbied hard to set up Kim’s meetings with former U.S. President Donald Trump as part of efforts to defuse the nuclear standoff and improve inter-Korean ties.

But the diplomacy never recovered from the failure of the second Kim-Trump meeting in 2019 in Vietnam. Talks collapsed when the sides could not agree on exchanging an end to crippling U.S.-led sanctions against North Korea for steps by the North to wind down its nuclear weapons and missile programs.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - John Lydon attends the LA premiere of "Punk" at SIR in Los Angeles, Monday, March 4, 2019. P...
Associated Press

Punk icon Lydon fails in bid to play Eurovision Song Contest

LONDON (AP) — Punk icon John Lydon has failed in his attempt to become Ireland’s entry for the pop music competition the Eurovision Song Contest. The former Sex Pistols frontman entered the song “Hawaii” with his post-punk band Public Image Ltd. in the national runoff for May’s continent-wide contest. Jurors and viewers of a televised […]
1 day ago
A vendor sits at a flea market in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)...
Associated Press

Dozens of soldiers freed in Russia-Ukraine prisoner swap

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Dozens of Russian and Ukrainian prisoners of war have returned home following a prisoner swap, officials on both sides said Saturday. Top Ukrainian presidential aide Andriy Yermak said in a Telegram post that 116 Ukrainians were freed. He said the released POWs include troops who held out in Mariupol during Moscow’s […]
1 day ago
FILE - The British frigate HMS Portland heads through the Suez canal, in Ismailia, Egypt Wednesday,...
Associated Press

Royal Navy sailors hospitalized after drinking water on ship

LONDON (AP) — A Royal Navy warship has returned to port in Britain after several sailors got sick from the vessel’s drinking water, officials said Saturday The navy said frigate HMS Portland had returned to its base at Portsmouth on England’s south coast on Friday “as a precautionary measure, following an issue with one of […]
1 day ago
FILE - An American flag is flown next to the Chinese national emblem during a welcome ceremony at t...
Associated Press

China plays down Blinken’s canceled visit over balloon

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — China played down the cancellation of a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken after a large Chinese balloon suspected of conducting surveillance on U.S. military sites roiled diplomatic relations, saying that neither side had formally announced any such plan. “In actuality, the U.S. and China have never announced any […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Ohio train derailment causes causes fire, home evacuations

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (AP) — A train derailment and resulting large fire prompted an evacuation order in an Ohio village near the Pennsylvania state line on Friday night, covering the area in billows of smoke lit orange by the flames below. Officials in East Palestine, Ohio, notified residents that an evacuation order remained in place […]
1 day ago
Pope Francis meets with a group of the Catholic faithful from the town of Rumbek, who had walked fo...
Associated Press

Pope encourages South Sudanese, will raise plight of women

JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — Pope Francis sought Saturday to console the long-suffering people of South Sudan as he opened his first full day in a country beset by conflict, poverty and humanitarian crises by encouraging priests and nuns to serve their flocks by joining in their tears. After arriving in the world’s newest country […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Seoul arrests ex-top security official over border killing