Ex-presidential chief of staff questioned in N. Korean fishermen repatriation case

October 19, 2022

Prosecutors on Wednesday questioned former presidential chief of staff Noh Young-min as part of an investigation into the previous Moon Jae-in government’s repatriation of two North Korean fishermen in 2019.

Prosecutors are looking into the case on suspicions that the Moon government deported the two North Korean fishermen back home despite their wishes to defect to South Korea.

Noh who served as the presidential chief of staff at that time presided over a meeting at Cheong Wa Dae where the deportation of the North Koreans was decided.

In August, a task force of the ruling People Power Party filed a complaint against him on charges that include abuse of official authority, illegal confinement and dereliction of duties.

The two North Koreans were captured near the sea border in the East Sea in 2019, confessed to killing 16 fellow crew members and expressed a desire to defect to South Korea.

But the then Moon government deemed their intentions to be insincere and sent them back to the North in what critics slam as an effort to curry favor with Pyongyang so it could help move the stalled inter-Korean peace process forward.

Chung Eui-yong and Suh Hoon, who served as national security adviser and National Intelligence Service director at the time, have also been accused of involvement over suspicions they had the fishermen’s defection wishes deleted from an investigation report.

Noh appeared for questioning at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office.

The focus of the prosecution questioning is expected to be on how deeply Noh was involved in making the deportation decision and whether he acted on an instruction from any one at a higher level.

After quizzing Noh, prosecutors are also expected to summon Chung and Suh for questioning.

Former presidential chief of staff Noh Young-min (Yonhap)

Former presidential chief of staff Noh Young-min (Yonhap)