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[Newsmaker] Opposition party slams Cheong Wa Dae’s response to NK’s killing of civilian

Sept. 27, 2020 - 17:05 By Park Han-na
People Power Party’s Deputy Floor Leader Rep. Kim Sung-won stages a protest in front of Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Sunday, calling for a clear explanation of North Korea‘s killing of a South Korea fisheries official. (Yonhap)

Opposition lawmakers are stepping up attacks on President Moon Jae-in over the killing of a South Korean civil servant by North Korea, framing the incident as a case of mishandling or even neglect of duty by the top office.

Five members of the People Power Party took turns holding one-person protests outside Cheong Wa Dae, each staging an hourlong rally with a sign that read “President Moon Jae-in, where are you now,” denouncing the president and the government for a “delayed” response that came too late for a 46-year-old official, who was shot dead and burned by North Korean troops Sept. 22.

“Cheong Wa Dae has to provide a clear explanation of why it could not save the life of a Korean national even though it could have done so,” said Rep. Kim Sung-won, the party’s deputy floor leader, who took part in the protest.

According to the Ministry of Defense, the president received a written report about the incident at around 6 p.m. on Sept. 22, approximately 10 hours after the government secured intelligence that the civil servant had been shot dead.

It is the first protest by the opposition party to take place outside of the parliament since the 21st National Assembly kicked off its official proceedings in July.

The move came as the conservative party and the ruling Democratic Party of Korea have increasingly divergent opinions on how to deal with the issue. The North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, issued a rare apology for the killing on Friday.

Prior to Kim’s apology, the ruling party suggested the joint adoption with the opposition party of a resolution condemning North Korea, which the People Power Party accepted on the condition that it be allowed to convene an urgent parliamentary session and to call in government officials involved in the case.

Rep. Kim Young-jin, deputy floor leader of the Democratic Party, said the party agrees that North Korea should be criticized for its actions and that similar events should not be allowed to happen again.

But when Kim Jong-un immediately apologized, departing from the North’s responses to previous incidents, the party decided to hold closed-door meetings of parliamentary standing committees concerned with the issue, including committees dealing with defense and intelligence, instead of the questioning session.

The opposition party formed a task force to carry out its own investigation into the case. On Saturday, the team of lawmakers visited the headquarters of the Korea Coast Guard in Incheon to hold talks with officials.

“Lawmakers, representatives of the people, should know what the government did until a Korean national was killed by North Korea’s gun after missing the opportunity for a rescue when he was wandering from sea to sea for six hours,” the opposition party’s floor spokeswoman, Rep. Bae Hyun-jin, said.

The People Power Party is calling on the government to file a complaint against North Korea with the International Criminal Court for violating human rights and refer the case to the UN Security Council.

The killing is a great setback to the Moon administration’s unrelenting efforts to achieve reconciliation with Pyongyang. Just hours before the killing was disclosed in an official announcement, Moon spoke during the UN General Assembly and called on the UN and the international community to declare the end of the Korean War.

Ruling party leader Lee Nak-yon on Sunday urged the North to accept the South’s proposal for a joint investigation into the case in a swift manner.

“South and North Korea are undergoing rescue operations in their respective waters. I hope that the body can be recovered immediately,” he said.

By Park Han-na (