The Korea Herald


Moon’s national security chief accused of destroying original key intel document

By Kim Arin

Published : July 21, 2023 - 17:12

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Suh Hoon, ex-national security chief at Moon Jae-in presidential office, appears at the Seoul central district court on July 14. (Yonhap) Suh Hoon, ex-national security chief at Moon Jae-in presidential office, appears at the Seoul central district court on July 14. (Yonhap)

Former national security chief Suh Hoon, who is already a defendant in two separate North Korea-related controversies from the previous Moon Jae-in administration, may face yet another criminal investigation for allegedly destroying key presidential records.

The bereaved family of Lee Dae-jun -- a South Korean fisheries official killed by North Korean troops at sea in September 2020 -- filed a criminal complaint against Suh on Friday over destroyed and lost records pertinent to then-President Moon’s role in the governmental response to the late official’s capture and killing by the North.

The original was a one-page intelligence document detailing a conversation between North Korean soldiers who caught Lee drifting in waters near the maritime border after going missing off a patrol boat. Suh submitted a copy of the document to Seoul’s central district court in December last year, saying the intelligence was reported to Moon immediately after the official was found in North Korean waters.

Seoul prosecutors on the case say they were unaware of the intelligence document’s existence before it was submitted by Suh to the court. They had been unable to find the original document in the archives of the former president’s records despite a search that has gone on for the past seven months. They are trying to figure out how the original document, which should have been archived, landed in Suh’s possession.

The late official’s family filed a criminal complaint against Suh and another national security official who worked alongside him for violating the law on presidential records.

Lee’s older brother, Lee Rae-jin, said in a statement that he believes Moon, who appointed Suh to lead his national security office as well as the country’s intelligence service, was “complicit” and “ultimately responsible” for the cover-up.

Suh is being tried for allegedly covering up important details of the murder of the South Korean fisheries official by North Korea. Lee was shot dead by a North Korean soldier, who then burned the body. Separately, Suh is also being tried for hampering an investigation into the November 2019 forcible repatriation of two North Korean fishers trying to defect to the South.

Suh served as Moon’s national security adviser from July 2020 to May 2022 and intelligence director from June 2017 to July 2020. In July 2022, shortly after Moon had completed his term as president in May that year, the National Intelligence Service filed a criminal suit against Suh accusing its former director of prematurely terminating an investigation of the forced repatriation of two hopeful defectors from North Korea.