SEOUL, May 28 (Korea Bizwire) — The office of President Yoon Suk-yeol is considering disclosing as much information as possible about a South Korean fisheries official killed by North Korea’s military near the western sea border in 2020, informed officials said Friday.
The presidential National Security Office (NSO) is determined to disclose the preceding Moon Jae-in government’s confidential information on the death of the fisheries official to the maximum possible extent, as long as it does not significantly harm the vital interests of the country, the officials said.
The Moon government had been reluctant to fully disclose information on the death of the official, identified only by his surname Lee, and even defied a court order to provide undisclosed information to his family.
But Yoon vowed to make public information on the case during his presidential campaign.
On Sept. 21, 2020, North Korea fatally shot the 47-year-old official who was adrift on its side of the Yellow Sea, and burned his body.
Seoul’s defense ministry only said two days later that the missing official was found in North Korean waters but issued a statement condemning the North’s atrocities on Sept. 24 after Yonhap News Agency reported his death the previous night.
The Coast Guard at that time announced the official appeared to be trying to defect to the North, though the announcement was flatly denied by his bereaved family.
The family has since demanded the truth behind Lee’s death and launched litigation for the disclosure of all relevant government information.
The Seoul Administrative Court last November ordered Moon’s NSO and the Coast Guard to offer classified information on Lee’s death to his family, but the two organs appealed the ruling. The case is now pending in the Seoul High Court.
A ranking official at Yoon’s NSO told Yonhap that the office is making efforts to disclose the information, though the scope of disclosure has yet to be determined.
The official also said the NSO is seriously considering whether to withdraw the appeal and the final decision will be made before the next court hearing slated for June 22.
The NSO’s information disclosure, if carried out, is expected to shed light on whether the Moon administration’s response to the case was appropriate.
In particular, controversy has persisted over whether the responses of Moon’s Cheong Wa Dae and military were appropriate after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sent a notice on Sept. 25, 2020, and apologized for the official’s death.
Suspicions also arose that the South Korean government’s countermeasures to Lee’s disappearance were delayed possibly because Moon delivered a keynote speech by video to the 75th United Nations General Assembly in New York on Sept. 23 calling for international support for the declaration of an end to the 1950-53 Korean War.
The bereaved family expects that the disclosure of the information about when and how Moon received the report on the case at that time and what instructions were issued by him will be very helpful in finding out the truth.