By Lee Min-hyung
|Defense Minister Song Young-moo|
President Moon Jae-in, while visiting India, issued a special order to the Ministry of National Defense, Tuesday, to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations. This raised speculation that there was a possible rift between Cheong Wa Dae and the ministry over investigating the DSC because Song did not take the case seriously.
Both Cheong Wa Dae and the ministry denied the speculation Wednesday, but rumors are circulating that Song's fate has already become uncertain as calls are growing from politicians for his resignation.
The revelation was made by Rep. Rhee Cheol-hee of the ruling Democratic Party. In fact, the DSC has been under fire for its continuous involvement in high-profile political scandals.
"It is not proper for me to comment on a case that is under investigation," Song said in a meeting with reporters, declining to comment further. Even before the latest incident, the minister, who took office in July last year, has stood at the center of attention for his contentious remarks and a series of scandals surrounding the ministry's alleged political meddling.
Song is expected to face more pressure in the aftermath of the latest controversy, as the defense ministry failed to launch in-depth investigation into the case even after it found a document detailing the plan this March.
The presidential office declined to confirm whether it received any briefing from the defense ministry over the document.
Presidential spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said Wednesday, "At the moment, there is a grey area in terms of fact-checking the issue."
On Tuesday, the defense minister expressed deep regret over its alleged involvement in the scandal, pledging to guarantee a fair and thorough investigation by a special team. He promised not to "wield his power" until the investigation was complete.
Special probe team established
On Wednesday, the defense ministry said it named Air Force colonel Jeon Ik-soo as the chief of the special team. He is currently the head of the Air Force's legal department.
Under instructions from the President, Jeon will autonomously lead the team without reporting any of tits findings to the defense minister.
"The special investigation team will consist of 30 military prosecutors who have no affiliation with the Army and DSC, and carry out a probe for a month until Aug. 10," the defense ministry said in a statement.
The investigators will delve into a series of allegations of political interference by the DSC. They include the reported planning of the imposition of a garrison command and martial law last year during candlelit protests demanding the ouster of former President Park Geun-hye.
The team will also look into DSC's alleged political meddling following the tragic sinking of the ferry Sewol in 2014. The military intelligence body is suspected of forming a 60-member special taskforce to prevent public sentiment from being aggravated in the wake of the disaster.
At that time, the government came under harsh fire from the public for its inept handling of rescue activities. The disaster left more than 300 people dead.
The task force allegedly collected information about the victims' family members and documented their political stances.