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‘Human rights lawyer’ Moon Jae-In defended Chinese mutineers who massacred South Korean crew

The Pesca Mar mutiny and murder incident.
by WorldTribune Staff, June 27, 2021

The term "human rights lawyer" is often used to characterize the background of South Korea's leftist President Moon Jae-In.

The following "may give pause, at least," to the use of that phrase before Moon's name, said Dr. Tara O, president of the East Asia Research Center.

Tara O noted that "about one and a half years ago, the Moon administration returned 2 North Korean defectors to North Korea through the DMZ. They were blindfolded on their way there, and didn't know they were being sent back. When they realized it, one collapsed to the ground when being walked across the DMZ, knowing what awaited them on the other side. The Moon government justified, saying they killed 16 people aboard a ship, including the captain, one by one, which was not investigated and unproven.

"But the story...of killing crew members on a fishing ship, including the captain, one by one, is not an unfamiliar one to Moon Jae-In."

Moon in 1996 rallied to the defense of six Chinese mutineers who were among the crew on the fishing vessel Pesca Mar. On Aug. 2 of that year, the mutineers "gruesomely murdered 11 crew members (7 South Koreans, 3 Indonesians, and 1 Chinese), including the captain, one by one, with harpoon, axe, knives, etc., and threw them overboard," Tara O noted. "Some were still alive when thrown into the shark-infested ocean."

On Dec. 24, 1996, the six mutineers were found guilty and sentenced to death at a court in Busan.

"By then, South Korea no longer carried out death sentences," Tara O noted.

Moon Jae-In, who was the representative in Busan and the South Gyeongsang Province branch of MinByun (a group of lawyers on the Left), became the lawyer for the mutineers and appealed the case.

"Moon argued their ghastly acts were 'accidental', rather than premeditated," Tara O noted. "Moon also gave the perpetrators money and flew their families to South Korea from China."

On April 18, 1997, the sentences for five of the mutineers were reduced to life-sentences. On Dec. 31, 2007, then-President Rho Moo-Hyun commuted the sentence of the leader of the murderers, Quan Zaiqian, to life-imprisonment.

Moon Jae-In state at the time: “Since Quan is now also sentenced to life in prison due to a special commutation, (my) pleadings came to fruition.”

In 2011 when Moon Jae-In was the head of the Rho Moo-Hyun Foundation, he stated: “The perpetrators of the Pesca Mar incident should also be embraced warmly as compatriots, and I have not changed my mind even now.”

Tara O noted: "As the tragedies of the Pesca Mar and the devastation of the two defectors forcibly returned to North Korea show, one wonders which side of human rights Moon Jae-in is really on, and whether the title 'human rights lawyer' really should precede his name."

(A detailed report on the Pesca Mar incident can be viewed here.)

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pescamar by Jung Da-Woon is licensed under Illustration East Asia Research Center

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