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Former South Korean security official arrested in growing cover-up probe

A South Korean court issued an arrest warrant on Saturday for former National Intelligence Service chief Suh Hoon (L) over charges he mishandled a 2020 investigation into the death of a fisheries official at the hands of North Korea. File Photo by Michael Reynolds/EPA-EFE
A South Korean court issued an arrest warrant on Saturday for former National Intelligence Service chief Suh Hoon (L) over charges he mishandled a 2020 investigation into the death of a fisheries official at the hands of North Korea. File Photo by Michael Reynolds/EPA-EFE

Dec. 3 (UPI) -- A South Korean court issued an arrest warrant on Saturday for a former senior security official over charges he mishandled an investigation into the death of a fisheries official at the hands of North Korea.

The Seoul court issued the warrant for former National Intelligence Service chief Suh Hoon, fearing he may attempt to destroy or discard evidence or leave the country.

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He is one of a growing number of former officials accused of mishandling the probe into the death of a fisheries official while serving in the government of former President Moon Jae-in two years ago.

In October, former Defense Minister Suh Wook and former Coast Guard Commissioner Gen. Kim Hong-hee were both arrested. A court similarly said both men posed a flight risk. It also cited the possibility the two would destroy evidence if not detained.

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In September 2020, North Korea fatally shot missing South Korean fisheries official Lee Dae-jun and burned his body. The 47-year-old victim went missing while on an inspection boat patrolling the Yellow Sea, roughly 6 miles south of the Northern Limit Line -- the disputed maritime boundary between the two Koreas.

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His death led to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un apologizing for the killing, saying he was "very sorry" in a formal notice sent to Seoul.

The South Korean investigation at the time concluded the man had been attempting to defect to North Korea. The country's Coast Guard then retracted that position in June, saying there was no evidence showing the official wanted to flee to the neighboring country.

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Prosecutors now dispute that as the cause, accusing the former officials of badly mishandling the investigation and reaching a predetermined conclusion.

Saturday's arrest warrant accuses Suh of ordering internal intelligence reports contradicting that conclusion be deleted. It also raised speculation the probe may continue expanding and eventually reach the former president.

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