Geum Yi

Defense ministry tried to delete intelligence about killing of fisheries official: prosecution

December 21, 2022

The prosecution investigating the preceding government’s handling of the killing of a fisheries official by North Korean soldiers has secured testimony that the defense ministry itself had attempted to delete related intelligence reports even before the National Security Council ordered their removal, officials said Wednesday.

The official, Lee Dae-jun, was fatally shot by the North Korean coast guard members near the de facto maritime border in the Yellow Sea on Sept. 22, 2020, a day after going missing while on duty on board a fishery inspection vessel. The Moon Jae-in administration announced he attempted to defect to the North.

This combination of file photos shows (from L) Park Jie-won, Suh Hoon and Suh Wook. (Yonhap)

This combination of file photos shows (from L) Park Jie-won, Suh Hoon and Suh Wook. (Yonhap)

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office is investigating allegations the Moon government made the announcement without sufficient evidence to prevent the incident from hampering inter-Korean relations.

The prosecution found the National Security Council, called by then National Security Adviser Suh Hoon at 1 a.m. on Sept. 23, 2020, ordered the defense ministry to delete intelligence reports about the killing.

According to the prosecution, a frontline intelligence monitoring unit reported his death to a higher authority at 10:44 p.m. on Sept. 22.

The prosecution secured a statement from a witness related to the unit that it was directed to take away the reports at 11:58 p.m.

The unit replied to the ministry that it cannot erase intelligence and that the Joint Chiefs of Staff has the authority to do so.

The investigation team is looking into whether Suh Hoon and then Defense Minister Suh Wook were involved in the alleged instruction to the intelligence unit.

Suh Hoon was arrested and indicted this month on charges of abusing his authority to cover up the killing.

The prosecution is also investigating then National Intelligence Service chief Park Jie-won on allegations that he ordered the deletion of intelligence reports in the spy agency.