Criminal investigations against former Moon officials intensify

Criminal investigations involving aides to former President Moon Jae-in are gathering pace, with only weeks left before prosecutors nationwide lose their power to investigate most crimes under laws passed by the government. Democratic Party of Korea.

Among the major cases under investigation are the 2020 murder of a South Korean Fisheries Ministry employee by North Korean soldiers at sea, the 2019 deportation of two North Korean fishermen and the 2018 closure of the Wolsong nuclear power station.

For the nearly two dozen Moon administration officials being investigated in the three cases, the past month has meant a series of searches and summonses.

In one of the latest developments, prosecutors in Seoul on Monday searched the presidential archives as part of the investigation into the case of two North Korean fishermen who were returned to North Korea via the border village of Panmunjom in November 2019.

Prosecutors suspect that much of the documents and other material in the case may have been transferred there to keep them classified. Earlier in July, an aide to President Yoon Suk-yeol’s office told reporters that the national security office in Cheong Wa Dae was “virtually out of related documents”, suggesting they might be stored elsewhere.

Seoul prosecutors last week raided the homes and offices of Suh Hoon and Park Jie-won, who both served as heads of the spy agency during the Moon administration, and Seo Wook, who was Moon’s Minister of National Defense.

Suh is accused of abandoning investigations into the North Korea deportation case and Park of suppressing files suggesting the slain fisheries official had no intention of defecting to the North. Seo is accused of trying to conceal information related to the fisheries officer’s murder.

Daejeon prosecutors searched the presidential archives on Friday as part of the Wolsong nuclear power investigation, which actually began long before the launch of the Yoon administration.

After the country’s state-owned nuclear and hydropower plant operator arbitrarily shut down Wolsong in June 2018, several reports have been filed with law enforcement over the years. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agreed in 2019 to an audit of the process leading to the plant’s closure.

The Democratic Party has called the investigations that have widened in recent months a “political revenge”.

Representative Woo Sang-ho, acting chairman of the main opposition, said the current administration was “trying to humiliate the last administration by targeting former Moon officials”. “This administration is only invested in a political vendetta,” he said.

In response, party representative Kim Hoe-jae on Monday proposed a bill limiting the scope of auditing that can be performed by state auditors, saying that under Yoon, the audit commission “targeted former top Moon officials.

Regarding criticism of the Democratic Party, Yoon said in response to a reporter’s question on June 17, “Criminal investigations would of course go after past events. Naturally, some may take off after a new administration is in place.

Yoon, who served as Moon’s attorney general before stepping down in March last year, said criminal investigations into past administrations “have also taken place under Democratic Party presidents.”

The archives of Park Geun-hye, who was president before Moon, were searched in 2017 as part of investigations by none other than Yoon himself and Han Dong-hoon. Han, who as a senior prosecutor built a career investigating the political and business elite, became the new administration’s first justice minister in May.

On more than one occasion, Yoon stressed that his administration would get to the bottom of all three cases in particular.

In the Aug. 17 speech marking 100 days as president, Yoon said his administration is “doing everything possible to uncover the truth behind the murder of the official at sea and the forced repatriation of North Korean fishermen, and restore the honor of the victims”.

In the same speech, Yoon said Moon’s policy of phasing out nuclear power was “motivated by political ideology” and that his own administration would commit to reviving nuclear power plants and innovating in nuclear energy. nuclear energy.

But prosecutors are working to a tight schedule. Laws restricting the prosecutor’s investigative authority are due to come into force on September 10. It is unclear whether ongoing investigations would be completed by then leading to convictions of those responsible for Moon.

By Kim Arin ([email protected])

Mark M. Gagnon