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(LEAD) Police search for whistle blower who hinted at suicide

All Headlines 12:15 January 03, 2019

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in paras 5-7)

SEOUL, Jan. 3 (Yonhap) -- A former finance ministry official, who has accused the Moon Jae-in government of attempting to replace the CEO of KT&G and pressuring the ministry to issue debt-covering bonds in 2017, has disappeared after sending a text message to his friend apparently to indicate his intention to commit suicide, police said Thursday, announcing a massive manhunt for him.

Seoul police said the search operation was under way to determine the whereabouts of Shin Jae-min after the police's 112 Emergency Response Center received a call from his friend at 8:20 a.m.

The unidentified friend told the center that the text message sent from Shin at 7 a.m. included ominous messages like "I'm distressed these days" and "Be happy."

(LEAD) Police search for whistle blower who hinted at suicide - 1

Police said they have found what appeared to be a suicide note and a mobile phone at a residence in Sillim-dong, southern Seoul, where the former official is believed to have stayed.

Police said the note was three pages long and that the phone found in the room was given to Shin by his acquaintance the previous day.

A message that appears to have been written by Shin was also posted in an online community for his alma mater, Korea University, at 11:19 a.m.

"Father and mother, I really love you and I am sorry. Still I seem to have done well," the message read. It was titled "This is the last posting" and mentioned a culture of recognizing whistle blowing and fully disclosing the policy-making process to the public.

Shin, a 33-year-old who worked in the treasury department of the Ministry of Economy and Finance for three years, said in a news conference on Wednesday that the ministry tried to issue deficit-covering bonds worth 4 trillion won (US$3.58 billion) in late 2017 under pressure from the presidential office.

He has also claimed in several online postings and YouTube clips that the move was apparently aimed at increasing government debts for the fiscal year 2017 to make the former Park Geun-hye administration look bad.

On Wednesday, the finance ministry filed a legal complaint against Shin for leaking secrets.

ycm@yna.co.kr
(END)

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