Investigation into Yoon seems to be inevitable as records of phone calls with former Defense Minister revealed

2024.05.30 18:00
Kang Yeon-ju, Kim Hye-ri

President Yoon Seok-yul delivers a message to the public during the two-year national report and press conference of the Yoon administration at the Yongsan presidential office in Seoul, South Korea, May 9. Presidential Office Photo Corps

President Yoon Seok-yul delivers a message to the public during the two-year national report and press conference of the Yoon administration at the Yongsan presidential office in Seoul, South Korea, May 9. Presidential Office Photo Corps

The missing link in the “external pressure suspicion” is being filled in as it has been confirmed that President Yoon Suk-yeol made several calls to former Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup on the day the Marine Corps investigators handed over the records of the investigation into the death of Marine Corporal Chae Su-geun to the police and the Defense Ministry recovered them last August. Around the same time, Lee also spoke with several officials at the presidential office. Legal experts say that in order to clarify the suspicion, it is inevitable to investigate Yoon as well as officials at the presidential office who spoke on the phone or exchanged text messages with the former minister.

According to a report by Kyunghyang Shinmun on May 29, Lee had numerous contacts with Yoon and other officials at the presidential office between July 31 and August 2 of last year and afterward, a key time frame for the alleged external pressure on the investigation into the death of Corporal Chae.

On August 2, Yoon called and spoke with Lee at 12:07:44 p.m., 12:43 p.m., and 12:57:52 p.m. It was the day that the former head of the Marine Corps Investigation Team, Colonel Park Jung-hoon, was dismissed from his post after transferring the investigation records to the Gyeongbuk National Police Agency. The Marine Corps Investigation Team finished handing over the case to the police at around 11:50 a.m. that day. Colonel Park was notified of his removal at around 12:45 p.m. by Marine Corps Commandant Kim Gye-hwan. The Defense Ministry Prosecutor‘s Office also retrieved the investigation records that day.

Yoon also called Lee at 7:55 a.m. on August 8 and spoke with Lee for 33 seconds. The next day, Lee ordered that the results of the Marine Corps investigation be reviewed by the Defense Ministry's investigation headquarters. Park suspects that the Ministry of National Defense's prosecution team's measure to retrieve the investigation records and Lee’s order to transfer the case to the investigation headquarters stemmed from the phone calls with Yoon.

Earlier, Lee answered a call from the presidential office extension at 11:54 a.m. on July 31 last year, when Yoon was said to be furious after being informed of the result of the investigation into the death of Corporal Chae, and talked for two minutes and 48 seconds. It is presumed to be right after the end of the National Security Office meeting presided over by Yoon, which began around 11 a.m. on the same day. Lee called Commander Kim at around 11:57 a.m. and ordered the Marine Corps Investigation Team to hold off on transferring the investigation records of Chae's death to the Gyeongbuk Provincial Police Agency. Considering the timing of the call, Colonel Park suspects that Lee ordered Kim after receiving instructions from the presidential office to withhold the transfer.

The former minister‘s calls and text messages with a number of officials at the presidential office around that time are also drawing suspicion. Between August 4 and 7, he spoke with Kim Yong-hyun, the chief of the Presidential Security Service, seven times and texted him once. Lee called Lim Jong-deuk, then second-in-command of the National Security Office, once on August 4 and Kim Tae-hyo, first-in-command of the National Security Office, once on August 8. He also spoke with Lim Ki-hoon, the presidential secretary for national defense, three times between July 31 and August 4.

Lee's side said that all the calls were legitimate and that there was no violation of the law. "All the suspicions raised are groundless," Lee's lawyer Kim Jae-hoon said in a statement. "Lee has never encountered the president's anger and has never been told by anyone at the presidential office to take out the division commander (from the suspect), nor has he ever told anyone such a thing." The lawyer also said, “The order to withhold the transfer was a legitimate decision made by Lee in accordance with his powers and responsibilities and could not have involved any wrongdoing.” However, Lee’s side said, “It is not appropriate to disclose whether or not Lee had calls with the president (including officials at the presidential office) and the contents of those calls.”

The call logs between President Yoon and former Minister Lee were submitted to the military court where Colonel Park’s disobedience case is underway. The investigation into the alleged external pressure into the death case of Corporal Chae is being conducted by the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO). No one from the presidential office has yet been called or questioned by the CIO in connection with the case. Nor has it made clear its plans for future investigations.

However, legal experts say that officials at the presidential office, who allegedly spoke with the former minister, and possibly Yoon himself, should be investigated. As it has been confirmed that Yoon made several phone calls to Lee on the day the investigation records of the Marine Corps Investigation Team transferred to the police were recovered, the possibility of direct instructions from Yoon cannot be ruled out.

A legal insider said, "It seems necessary to investigate President Yoon at least in the process of finding out the truth." This means that at least a written investigation should be conducted. A lawyer, who has defended a number of military cases, said, "As long as the records of phone calls are released, the suspicion of Yoon's abuse of authority and obstruction of the exercise of the right to abuse his authority seems to have intensified." If Yoon ordered the Marine Corps Investigation Team to suspend the transfer of the case or retrieve the investigation records, it would be an offense that prevented the police from exercising their authority under the Military Court Act that the case records should be handed over immediately.

※This article has undergone review by a professional translator after being translated by an AI translation tool.

추천기사

바로가기 링크 설명

화제의 추천 정보

    오늘의 인기 정보

      추천 이슈

      내 뉴스플리에 저장