Prosecutors placed a travel ban on a former head of the National Security Council to investigate the alleged manipulation of official documents related to the sinking of a passenger ship three years ago, it confirmed on Friday.
The Seoul Central District Prosecutor’s Office banned Kim Jang-soo, a former defense minister and ambassador to China, from leaving the country over suspicions that he played a part in altering the presidential office‘s daily log concerning the Sewol ferry sinking that left 304 killed or missing, on April 16, 2014.
Kim Jang-soo (Yonhap)
The 68-year-old was the person who reported the disaster to the then state leader Park Geun-hye over the phone and in writing, as the NSC chief at the time of the incident.
According to the evidence revealed by the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae earlier this month, Kim is thought to have manipulated the daily record and pushed the time of his reporting to a later time, from 9:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Current Presidential Chief of Staff Im Jong-seok said that Kim’s fabrication appears to be an attempt to reduce the time between the first report and Park’s first order, which is said to have been made at around 10:15 a.m.
Kim, who took the post in March 2013, was replaced in May the next year, after he came under fire over his statement that NSC is not the control tower of disasters.
Former defense minister Kim Kwan-jin who succeeded the NSC is also suspected of ordering for the government’s crisis response manual to be changed without following the needed legal procedures. The presidential directive was changed in July of that year so that the duty of controlling disaster situations falls under the Ministry of the Interior and Safety, not the NSC.
The presidential office had requested a probe into the two former NSC chiefs.
The question of where the former President Park was at the time of the sinking remains, as she was absent from duty during the seven hours from when the sinking was first reported, until she appeared at the government task force at around 5:30 p.m.
Park is currently behind bars, standing trial over a massive corruption scandal that led to her ouster in March.
By Jo He-rim (firstname.lastname@example.org)