Family files for release of North Korea murder files

Kim Ki-yun, a lawyer representing the Lee family, speaks to reporters outside the presidential archives building in Sejong, North Chungcheong province, on Wednesday. To his left is Lee Rae-jin, the deceased’s older brother. (courtesy of Lee)

The family of Lee Dae-jun, the man killed by North Korean soldiers at sea about a year and a half ago, on Wednesday requested the release of information now archived as presidential records.

“The court sided with the family last November and ordered Cheong Wa Dae to disclose information about the case,” family lawyer Kim Ki-yun told reporters outside the courtroom. Presidential Archives Building in Sejong, North Chungcheong Province.

“But Cheong Wa Dae appealed the court order and then designated the information as part of the presidential records when the president (Moon Jae-in) left office,” he said. Once archived, the information is closed to the public for at least 15 years, if not longer. The lawyer fears that by then the limitation periods have expired.

According to data from the Ministry of Interior and Security, the number of files archived by Moon to be kept secret stands at 393,000, nearly double the 204,000 of his predecessor Park Geun-hye, who was deposed. before she could complete her term.

It is highly unlikely that Wednesday’s request will lead to a disclosure.

Unlocking presidential records requires the approval of more than two-thirds of the National Assembly or a warrant issued by the chief justice of a high court.

The family is seeking this information in hopes it could help the courts hold those responsible, including those in North Korea, to account. The lawyer said the family also has a right to know before, during and after what would constitute an extrajudicial execution of a loved one.

Among the information the family has requested to be released is the initial reports made to the coast guard and defense authorities at the time of Lee’s disappearance, and what Cheong Wa Dae was doing in the hours leading up to the incident.

By Kim Arin (arin@heraldcorp.com)