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Former NIS chief, ex-defense minister indicted for deleting evidence in fisheries case

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Park Jie-won, former director of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), speaks to reporters at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office in Seocho District, southern Seoul, on Dec. 14. [KIM KYUNG-ROK]
Park Jie-won, former director of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), speaks to reporters at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office in Seocho District, southern Seoul, on Dec. 14. [KIM KYUNG-ROK]

Prosecutors indicted without detention Thursday former National Intelligence Service (NIS) chief Park Ji-won, former Defense Minister Suh Wook, and a former NIS staffer for allegedly deleting evidence related to the murder of a South Korean fisheries official by North Korean soldiers in September 2020.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office said Thursday that Park and former NIS chief of staff Roh Eun-chae were indicted on charges of violating the National Intelligence Service Act.

Suh was indicted on charges of abuse of power.

They are accused of ordering the deletion of related documents at the NIS and the Ministry of National Defense in an attempt to cover up the case after a meeting on Sept. 23, 2020, one day after the death of fisheries official Lee Dae-jun. Suh is also accused of the fabrication of documents.

On Sept. 22, 2020, North Korean soldiers fatally shot Lee and burned his corpse. The previous day, he disappeared while on duty south of Yeonpyeong Island near the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the de facto inter-Korean maritime border, in the Yellow Sea. At the time, South Korean military officials claimed that Lee was trying to escape gambling debts by defecting to North Korea.

The Yoon Suk-yeol administration reopened the case after coming into office in May, and the Ministry of National Defense and the Coast Guard admitted in June that there was no evidence to support the idea that Lee was trying to defect and apologized for the previous conclusions.

In July, the NIS filed a complaint with the prosecution against Park on allegations of destroying intelligence documents, which was followed by a raid on the intelligence agency later that month to seize documents and other evidence.

Park served as NIS director from July 2020 to May this year. He has denied the allegations.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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