The South Korean military prosecution has said that it was investigating an incumbent Army division commander who was suspected of ordering his staff to shred documents on the 2014 Sewol ferry sinking while he was working at the presidential office in 2017.
The Sewol sank in the summer of 2014 when executing a tight turn at too great a speed. More than 300 students died as a result, even though most of the crew, including the master, evacuated the ship safely.
Kwon Young-ho, commander of the Army’s 22nd Division, allegedly instructed his subordinates to destroy two boxes of documents on the Sewol accident in July 2017 without lawful procedures. He was serving as chief of the crisis management centre at Cheong Wa Dae at the time. The documents included reports made to former President Park Geun-hye at the time of the accident.
The military prosecution is investigating Kwon on charges of violating the law on public records management, the South Korean Defence Ministry has said. The presidential office reportedly requested the ministry for the probe.
The shredding of the documents took place when the Moon Jae-in administration was taking over the crisis management centre from the Park administration.
On July 17, 2017, Moon’s presidential office announced that it found 1,361 documents of the Park administration on the Sewol sinking and other potentially controversial matters in a file cabinet in the office of the senior presidential secretary for political affairs.
In October 2017 the presidential office requested the prosecution investigate the
alleged altering of the time log on the initial reports made to Park on Sewol’s sinking. The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office at the time confirmed that some documents on the ferry accident had been destroyed but closed the case without indicting anyone involved, saying it could not find out the content of the shredded documents.
Kwon was appointed as chief of the crisis management centre in April 2016 under Park and served until January 2018 under the Moon administration.