(Bloomberg) -- A South Korean court approved the arrest of a former security chief accused of covering up the death of a fisheries official by North Korean soldiers near a nautical border, Yonhap reported.
The Seoul Central District Court ordered Suh Hoon, former director of the National Security Office, to surrender to authorities over the incident that took place in 2020, the report said. It cited the court saying there is a possibility Suh would destroy evidence based on the gravity of allegations, his social status and relations with those involved.
The 47-year-old fisheries official was fatally shot before being set on fire in what was the first killing of a South Korean civilian by North Korea’s military in about a decade.
The fisheries official went missing in September 2020 from his boat near Yeonpyeong Island, about 10 kilometers (6 miles) south of the nautical border known as Northern Limit Line. Authorities under former President Moon Jae-in’s administration said he may have tried to defect but was treated harshly by the North Koreans because they believed he could have been a carrier of the coronavirus.
When a new president took power in May, the Coast Guard and military retracted previous claims and said there was no evidence to support the conclusion the man was trying to defect. Suh was part of Moon’s government, which sought rapprochement with Pyongyang and have been accused by conservative opponents of downplaying its human rights abuses so as not to offend its neighbor.
Prosecutors said Suh ordered details of the death to be deleted. He has denied the allegations, saying in October he didn’t make any such demands and there would be no benefit in doing so.
Moon’s government issued a sternly worded warning after the official’s death but didn’t seek any punishment against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s government.
--With assistance from Seyoon Kim.
©2022 Bloomberg L.P.
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