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Killed official's family upset over Moon's letter

Lee Rae-jin, the older brother of a South Korean official shot to death in the North's territorial waters, discloses a letter from President Moon Jae-in during a press conference at the Korean Coast Guard's Incheon office, Wednesday. Yonhap
Lee Rae-jin, the older brother of a South Korean official shot to death in the North's territorial waters, discloses a letter from President Moon Jae-in during a press conference at the Korean Coast Guard's Incheon office, Wednesday. Yonhap

By Do Je-hae

Controversy has arisen over President Moon Jae-in's letter to the son of the South Korean official killed by North Korean military personnel last month near the maritime border between the two Koreas.

The letter, which was delivered on Tuesday to the bereaved family by a presidential aide, is being criticized by the opposition and the family who claim it lacks a sincere expression of consolation. Some have also taken issue with the format of the letter, as it was not handwritten but typed, and carried an electronic signature of the President.

Lee Rae-jin, the killed official's older brother who has been acting as a spokesperson for the bereaved family, disclosed the letter during a press conference at the Korean Coast Guard's Incheon office, Wednesday.

"It was not very different from what the President has previously said," Lee said, adding the family members were unsatisfied with the letter.

He said the President's letter did not contain detailed answers to some of the questions his nephew had asked in his previous letter to the President. In that letter, the son of the official asked the President why his father ended up in the North's territorial waters and what the government did to save his father's life.

The President responded in his letter that he understood the pain a son feels when losing his father and reassured him that the government is doing all it can to uncover the truth behind the incident.

The high school student's father was shot by North Korean military personnel after he was found in the North's territorial waters on Sept. 22. The government announced that he is believed to have been trying to defect to the North, but the bereaved family has denied this, saying that such intentions had never been declared before the incident. The family claims that the controversial announcement is aimed at covering up the government's failure to save the official's life.

"When the truth is revealed, those who are responsible must be punished and honor must be restored if anything unfair has happened," Moon said in the letter. "The Korea Coast Guard and the military are doing everything they can to look for your father. I give you my word that I will pay attention to this matter so that the entire process is carried out transparently."

Moon also urged the son to wait for the Korea Coast Guard's investigation results, which is the same message he announced previously through his spokesperson Kang Min-seok on Oct. 6.

The main opposition People Power Party (PPP) criticized the President, calling his message insincere.

"The letter did not carry any updates from the President's earlier remark made through his spokesman," said Kim Ye-ryeong, a spokeswoman for the PPP. "The typed letter had no handwritten signature of the President, no more than just a formality."

But the presidential office said that Moon wrote his message from the heart. "Rather than the format, what is important in a letter is what it says," a presidential aide told reporters, Wednesday. "Above all, the President said he would take care of this problem himself. He replied with his heart to a young high school student."

The aide said all letters from the President, even those for other heads of state, are typed and carry an electronic signature.


Lee Rae-jin, the older brother of a South Korean official shot to death in the North's territorial waters, discloses a letter from President Moon Jae-in during a press conference at the Korean Coast Guard's Incheon office, Wednesday. Yonhap
Lee Rae-jin, the older brother of a South Korean official shot to death in the North's territorial waters, discloses a letter from President Moon Jae-in during a press conference at the Korean Coast Guard's Incheon office, Wednesday. Yonhap

By Do Je-hae

Controversy has arisen over President Moon Jae-in's letter to the son of the South Korean official killed by North Korean military personnel last month near the maritime border between the two Koreas.

The letter, which was delivered on Tuesday to the bereaved family by a presidential aide, is being criticized by the opposition and the family who claim it lacks a sincere expression of consolation. Some have also taken issue with the format of the letter, as it was not handwritten but typed, and carried an electronic signature of the President.

Lee Rae-jin, the killed official's older brother who has been acting as a spokesperson for the bereaved family, disclosed the letter during a press conference at the Korean Coast Guard's Incheon office, Wednesday.

"It was not very different from what the President has previously said," Lee said, adding the family members were unsatisfied with the letter.

He said the President's letter did not contain detailed answers to some of the questions his nephew had asked in his previous letter to the President. In that letter, the son of the official asked the President why his father ended up in the North's territorial waters and what the government did to save his father's life.

The President responded in his letter that he understood the pain a son feels when losing his father and reassured him that the government is doing all it can to uncover the truth behind the incident.

The high school student's father was shot by North Korean military personnel after he was found in the North's territorial waters on Sept. 22. The government announced that he is believed to have been trying to defect to the North, but the bereaved family has denied this, saying that such intentions had never been declared before the incident. The family claims that the controversial announcement is aimed at covering up the government's failure to save the official's life.

"When the truth is revealed, those who are responsible must be punished and honor must be restored if anything unfair has happened," Moon said in the letter. "The Korea Coast Guard and the military are doing everything they can to look for your father. I give you my word that I will pay attention to this matter so that the entire process is carried out transparently."

Moon also urged the son to wait for the Korea Coast Guard's investigation results, which is the same message he announced previously through his spokesperson Kang Min-seok on Oct. 6.

The main opposition People Power Party (PPP) criticized the President, calling his message insincere.

"The letter did not carry any updates from the President's earlier remark made through his spokesman," said Kim Ye-ryeong, a spokeswoman for the PPP. "The typed letter had no handwritten signature of the President, no more than just a formality."

But the presidential office said that Moon wrote his message from the heart. "Rather than the format, what is important in a letter is what it says," a presidential aide told reporters, Wednesday. "Above all, the President said he would take care of this problem himself. He replied with his heart to a young high school student."

The aide said all letters from the President, even those for other heads of state, are typed and carry an electronic signature.


Do Je-hae jhdo@koreatimes.co.kr


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