|Former President Moon Jae-in, front right, walks with Lee Jae-myung, front left, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea, at Moon's home in Yangsan in South Gyeongsang Province, in this Aug. 29 file photo. Moon said the state audit institution's recent attempt to question him over a South Korean fisheries official killed by North Korea in 2020 is "very rude.' Newsis|
Ex-president rejects inquiry over fisheries official's death
By Jung Min-ho
Former President Moon Jae-in said the state audit agency's recent attempt to question him over a South Korean fisheries official killed by North Korea in 2020 is "very rude," according to Rep. Youn Kun-young, his former aide.
The lawmaker of the main opposition liberal Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) told reporters at the National Assembly, Monday, that Moon said it was "very rude" and improper for the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) to call him and send him an official email regarding the case.
After receiving the email on Sept. 28, the office of Moon's secretary told the institution two days later that he will not answer any of its questions.
The 47-year-old fisheries official, who was unarmed, was killed in September 2020 by the North Korean military while adrift in the North's territorial waters and his body was incinerated afterwards. It was initially concluded that he was killed during his attempt to defect to the North. But the story took a drastic turn as the military and police, under the Yoon Suk-yeol government, said there was not sufficient evidence that he was intentionally trying to cross the border. Over the past few months, the prosecution has been looking into who was involved in drawing that conclusion.
"The BAI appears to try to curry favor with the people in power despite its duty to maintain political neutrality. We should find the whole truth behind this," Youn said.
More than 10 lawmakers, who worked for the previous administration, appeared at the press conference where they vowed to fight against what they described as "political retaliation" by the Yoon administration.
"It is a declaration of war by the BAI," they said in a statement. "It is a betrayal of the people and the Moon government that worked hard to protect the institution's political neutrality."
Rep. An Ho-young, a spokesman for the DPK, accused the Yoon administration of covering up the president's recent "diplomatic failure" ― highlighted by Yoon's supposed use of crude language during his visit to New York two weeks ago ― by creating distractions.
His sentiments echo those of Lee Jae-myung, the DPK's leader, who urged the administration to stop its "political retaliation" and focus on preparing for a looming economic crisis. The DPK also threatened to file a complaint with the police against the BAI for abuse of power.
|Rep. Youn Kun-young of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea speaks during a press conference at the National Assembly in Seoul, Monday. Newsis|
In recent weeks, BAI inspectors also sent written questions to Park Jie-won and Suh Hoon ― former directors of the National Intelligence Service ― to look into allegations that they fabricated related intelligence reports to conceal the truth.
Citing Moon's own remarks several years ago that anyone, even former presidents, must be prosecuted if a person violates any laws, Rep. Jang Dong-hyeok, floor spokesman for the ruling conservative People Power Party, said that the former president rejected the principle of equality before the law by dismissing the BAI inquiry.
"Many people are wondering what the president was doing when our citizen was murdered by North Korea and why the father of a son and a daughter was branded as a defector," he said in a statement. "In Daegu in 2016, Moon said the president must be investigated if she (former President Park Geun-hye) violated any law … and called on prosecutors to treat her as a criminal suspect before the same law.
"Instead of hiding behind the shield of 'political retaliation,' Moon should respond to the questions ― for the people and his (the 47-year-old South Korean fisheries official's) bereaved family."
Moon is not the first former president to receive a BAI inquiry over alleged wrongdoings. Four others ― Roh Tae-woo, Kim Young-sam, Lee Myung-bak and Park ― were also asked to answer questions. While Roh and Kim cooperated, Lee and Park refused to do so. The latter two were eventually put behind bars for corruption during the Moon Jae-in administration, which pledged to clean up what it called "deep-rooted evil." Lee, 80, is still in prison.
"None of the former presidents were able to avoid the investigations by the prosecution or police … Moon cannot be an exception," Jang said.
Political tensions are expected to rise further this week as the opposition party, which holds a majority in the Assembly, vows to highlight the Yoon administration's incompetence at the parliamentary inspection of government offices (Oct. 4-24).