South Korean spy agency files complaints against ex-chiefs over N.Korea cases

FILE PHOTO: South Korea's National Intelligence Service chief Suh Hoon talks to reporters after meeting with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo, Japan March 13, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea's main intelligence agency said on Wednesday it had filed criminal complaints against two of its former chiefs on charges of abuse of power in cases linked to North Korea during the previous administration.

The National Intelligence Service (NIS) said it filed the complaints with the Supreme Prosecutors' Office, accusing Suh Hoon and Park Jie-won, who led the agency under the liberal Moon Jae-in government, of ordering an investigation to end and destroying intelligence documents, respectively.

Suh's case involved a 2019 decision to deport two North Korean fishermen suspected of murdering 16 of their shipmates.

Park's case involved the 2020 shooting death of a South Korean fisheries official by North Korean troops.

Reuters was not able to reach Suh for comment but Park denied the NIS accusation in a Facebook post saying it was "fiction".

"I will honourably reveal the truth," said Park, who accused the new government of politicizing the NIS.

The filings come after President Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office in May, hinted at the possibility of reviewing the cases.

In the run-up to a March presidential election that the conservative Yoon won, he criticised his predecessor's North Korea policy as "submissive".

The NIS said in a statement that Suh was suspected of forcing officials to close an investigation into the North Korean fishermen and of drawing up a false document.

The Moon administration, which was keen to improve ties with North Korea, sent the two North Korean fishermen back to North Korea. It said they were "dangerous criminals" who killed their colleagues while crossing the sea border and they would cause harm if they were accepted into South Korean society.

The NIS said Park was suspected of destroying intelligence reports on the case involving the South Korean fisheries official, in violation of procedures.

The South Korean official went missing at sea in September 2020 while working as a fishing inspector.

North Korean authorities later shot him dead and set his body on fire, an incident that shocked many South Koreans and increased cross-border tension.

The North’s official KCNA news agency, soon after the incident, accused South Korean opposition lawmakers of stoking controversy over it and it blamed South Korea for failing to stop the man from crossing the maritime border into the North.

North Korean soldiers had acted in self-defence as the fisheries official tried to flee, the North Korean news agency said.

(Reporting by Soo-hyang Choi and Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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