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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Sept. 16)

All News 06:51 September 16, 2022

Finding truth behind the accusations

In July 2018, the liberal Moon Jae-in administration shocked the country by accusing the Defense Security Support Command (DSSC) of having plotted a coup amid the chaos from the impeachment of former president Park Geun-hye on charges of corruption. At the time, a Blue House spokesperson went so far as to disclose the details of the military intelligence command's alleged scheme to declare wartime martial law to protect their boss. The disclosed scheme included a scenario of deploying tanks on Gwanghwamun Square and in front of the National Assembly to effectively control the public.

On a state visit to India at that time, President Moon immediately ordered his aides in Seoul to set up a joint civilian-military investigation team to find the truth behind the coup attempt, saying, "Our national security is at stake." Following the president's direction, the joint investigation group interrogated more than 200 people in and out of the military command for 104 days by mobilizing 37 prosecutors, not to mention seizing over 90 locations. But the investigation went nowhere. Without finding any evidence, the team ended up indicting only three suspects, including a senior officer from the DSSC. But all of them were found not guilty in the first trial.

The document on martial law was just a review of the procedure needed for the promulgation of the law to prepare for any contingency after President Park was impeached by the legislature. In other words, it was not an action plan. After looking into the document four months earlier, the Blue House reportedly found no problem with it. Nevertheless, the government and Democratic Party reversed their positions and defined it as case of plotting a coup. President Moon even ordered a dismantling and revamping of the DSSC without waiting for the results of the investigation to come. As a result, a number of high-ranking officers were removed or relocated to the field army, which led to a noticeable weakening of the country's counterintelligence capabilities.

Song Young-gil, defense minister at the time, even claimed that the DSSC had been engaged in illicit spying on the bereaved families of the victims of the Sewol ferry disaster in 2014 — the second year into Park's presidency — to canvass their reactions to the tragedy. The Supreme Prosecutors' Office under president Moon also dug up the case for 14 months from December 2019, but found no evidence of DSSC having involved in illegal operations. The commander of DSSC, a three-star general, committed suicide after going through tough investigation.

On Wednesday, the People Power Party (PPP) accused former defense minister Song and a former DSSC commander of distorting and fabricating facts. Prosecutors must get to the bottom of the case to find the truth and punish them if they really made false accusations and politically-motivated incitement.

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