Former top intelligence and security officials of the previous Moon Jae-in administration denied at the first hearing held Friday that they tried to cover up North Korean troops killing a South Korean government official at sea in 2020.
Appearing at court, the lawyer representing former National Intelligence Service Director Park Jie-won said he “denies all that is written in the indictment.”
According to the indictment Seoul prosecutors submitted to the National Assembly, Park ordered officials at the NIS to “expunge all intelligence reports related to the case as soon as possible” the morning after the South Korean official was killed on Sept. 23, 2020.
Park’s lawyer also complained that some of the records prosecutors used as evidence against the former intelligence chief were “state secrets or otherwise confidential,” barring lawyers from making copies for review.
Some Cheong Wa Dae records related to the 2020 killing at sea were archived as presidential records as Moon left office, which dictates they be kept secret for at least 15 years.
The defense team of another former NIS director, Suh Hoon, denied the criminal acts charged in the indictment.
In the indictment submitted to the National Assembly, prosecutors said Suh, while serving as the national security director at Cheong Wa Dae, tried to conceal the South Korean official being killed to avert possible public criticism of Moon and his North Korea appeasement policy.
“It’s hard to accept the claims that as the Cheong Wa Dae national security director he tried to hide what had happened or accused the late official of attempting to defect to North Korea without evidence,” said Suh’s lawyer.
The lawyer representing Seo Wook, a former minister of national defense, said all of the decisions made at the time were “based on matters of national security,” also denying the charges.
On Sept. 22, an official of South Korea’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries was fatally shot by North Korean troops near the inter-Korean maritime border after going missing during sea patrol duty. South Korean authorities at the time said he died while trying to defect to North Korea, a determination that was reversed last year.