The state audit agency has called for disciplinary action and warnings against 13 public officials for their roles in the aftermath of the death of a fisheries official shot by North Korean soldiers in September 2020.
Announcing an outcome of its review of the case on Thursday, the Board of Audit and Inspection(BAI) said it requested disciplinary measures and warnings for officials from the Coast Guard as well as the defense and unification ministries.
The list includes former defense minister Suh Wook and former Coast Guard commissioner general Kim Hong-hee under the previous Moon Jae-in administration, with the findings entered into the personnel records of the retired officials for future employment consideration.
The BAI demanded that warnings be issued for the National Security Office(NSO), the Joint Chiefs of Staff(JCS) and the Navy for failing to take necessary pan-government steps as stipulated in regulations and manuals for crisis situations.
Despite being briefed by the military on the circumstances surrounding the discovery of Lee Dae-jun’s body in North Korean territory on September 22, 2020, the NSO did not relay the information to the unification ministry.
Neither the Coast Guard nor its central office sought to cooperate with the defense ministry to conduct a search, citing the need to "maintain security."
The audit agency also notified the defense minister and the Coast Guard chief about two retired officials who inappropriately ordered the deletion of classified documents, as well as the concealment of the fatal shooting incident.
The agency called on the JCS chief to ensure that classified files are not deleted without official registration or submission into the military information system.
The BAI also requested the issuance of a warning regarding the defense ministry's release of a report to the media that the military determined that the official attempted to defect to the North based on inaccurate information.
It concluded that the Coast Guard unjustly released personal information about Lee and the alleged defection based on concealed or false information from a related investigation, demanding disciplinary action against five incumbent Coast Guard officials.
Since announcing plans to launch an audit into the incident in June 2022, the BAI has sought a criminal investigation against 20 officials from five government agencies, including the NSO, for potentially violating the BAI Act.
Lee was fatally shot by North Korean soldiers and his body later set on fire after going missing in waters near Yeonpyeong Island while on duty.