In a speech marking his fourth year in office, President Moon Jae-in referred to propaganda leaflets North Korean defector groups are sending across the border and said, “I have no choice but to enforce the law sternly.” In other words, he has no choice but to double over in supplication before North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister Yo-jong, who had thrown another hissy fit about the leaflets. That prompted U.S. Representative Tom Lantos to schedule another hearing on the issue, adding to condemnation from every respectable human rights body on the entire globe.

Moon does not want North Koreans to learn the truth about their vile regime. When Kim Yo-jong demanded that South Korea enact laws to crack down on the leaflets, the government responded just four-and-a-half hours later by saying one “is being prepared.” When she flew off the handle again after a defectors’ group still sent leaflets across the border, the government vowed to undertake a “stern investigation.” In fact, it is now considering prosecuting people even if the materials did not actually fly across the border. 

Yet when a fisheries official was brutally murdered at sea by North Korean soldiers and his body incinerated, Moon did not even attend the emergency meeting — officials apparently did not want to wake him up. The official was alive for another three hours after the military gave its first report of the incident to Cheong Wa Dae. Yet surely Moon, who was the first to criticize his dozy predecessor Park Geun-hye for her late response to the 2014 ferry disaster, should have reacted much sooner and done everything humanly possible to save the official. At that time, Moon was still exchanging letters with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the two Koreas even had a communication line that was open. But Moon did nothing. In fact, it was only when Kim wrote him a letter apologizing — behaving on this occasion rather better than South Korea’s own president — that Moon practically shed tears of gratitude.

The son of the fisheries official sent a letter to Moon asking him, “I wonder what attempts the government made while my father was being slaughtered and why he couldn’t be rescued.” Moon replied, “I promise to ensure transparency in the investigation in order to find the truth. I ask you to wait for the results of the investigation and search operations.” That was the last anyone heard from Moon about the matter. The victim’s family are even calling on the U.S. president to help them find the truth. If Moon had devoted to the slain official even a fraction of the energy he spends cracking down on activists who exercise their constitutional right to free speech, he would not now have to endure the contempt of Korean voters.

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