Pair Sent To North Korea Are Likely Dead, Report Finds

( )- Prosecutors in South Korea are investigating members of former President Moon Jae-in’s government over the forced repatriation of two North Korean fishermen in 2019 who, upon their return, faced criminal charges and likely execution.

Last week, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yoel’s administration released photos of the bound and blindfolded fishermen being dragged across the border. In a statement, the administration said the pair being sent back to North Korea to face charges of murdering their fellow crewmen was “a crime against humanity that violated both international law and the constitution.”

The former Moon administration said the two fishermen were sent back to North Korea after they confessed to murdering 16 aboard the fishing boat and said they did not intend to defect.

However, critics at the time contended Moon’s government stopped short the investigation into the matter and returned the men only to placate North Korea as it was involved in talks with the former Trump administration.

While former President Moon has not commented on the current investigation, his party claims that President Yoon is bringing up this 3-year-old incident as a way to boost support for his presidency.

Yoon’s approval has fallen to 37 percent, making his the first administration since 1987 to poll below 40 percent for a president two months after taking office.

South Korea’s spy agency admitted earlier in the month that it filed a complaint with prosecutors against its two former chiefs under Moon. The agency alleged that one of them preemptively ended the probe into the case while the other deleted a report on a separate incident of a South Korean fisheries official who was killed by North Korean troops near the nautical border.

Both former chiefs deny the accusations, calling them politically motivated.

The 2019 repatriation was harshly criticized in South Korea as the country’s constitution defines those from the North as its citizens and serving of a trial in South Korea. It is believed by human rights groups that the two fishermen were likely executed when they returned to North Korea.

Last Wednesday, a group of South Korean lawyers said they would be filing a complaint against former President Moon for attempted murder charges in connection with the fishermen’s repatriation.