Documents submitted by the defense ministry show the earlier reported proposal from the defense intelligence agency to declare martial law may have been more deliberate than earlier believed, the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said Friday, apparently implying the military may have actually sought to go ahead with such a plan.
Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said the military maintained and renewed its plans for a martial law every two years, but that the new documents submitted by the ministry showed significant changes and differences from the original plans.
"Usually, the military renews its martial law plans every two years," the spokesman told a press briefing. "(Cheong Wa Dae) has confirmed the submitted documents are completely different from the existing plans."
The military documents have been submitted after President Moon Jae-in made a special order for the defense ministry and the military to submit all documents related to the martial law proposal from the Defense Security Command (DSC), which reportedly came in the wake of protest rallies and candlelight vigils in late 2016 that led to the ouster of former President Park Geun-hye on suspicions of corruption.
Kim said the proposal even included plans to inspect and censor news articles.
Also, the DSC suggested the chief of the Army take control of a martial law command, instead of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under conventional military plans.
It also suggested the head of the National Intelligence Service be subject to leadership of the top military commander under its proposed martial law, suggesting military control of the government, as well as the top spy agency.
To the apparent surprise of many, the DSC even stressed a need to arrest and remove then opposition lawmakers who took part in the protest rallies against Park, partly to prevent the parliament from impeaching then-President Park and lifting the martial law, Kim explained.
The now-ruling Democratic Party was then the main opposition and single largest party in the unicameral parliament. Park was impeached by the opposition-led parliament in late 2016. She was removed from office in March 2017 by a Constitutional Court decision that upheld the parliamentary impeachment.
A special investigation team has been formed at a direct order from President Moon to investigate the controversial martial law proposal from the DSC.
The Cheong Wa Dae spokesman said the investigation team too has secured the military documents submitted to the presidential office.
"We expect the special investigation team to investigate the legality of the documents and whether the military did in fact have an intention to put the proposal into action," he told the briefing.
A military investigation team said that it secured "detailed materials" from a memory stick related to the DSC review of the potential imposition of martial law. The team called the memory stick "the most significant clue" in its investigation.
"Through an analysis of the USB memory stick, we confirmed the existence of the martial law-related documents and other detailed materials," the team said in a statement.
"Right after that, we found out from the defense minister's office that there was a document that the current DSC commander reported to the minister, and we had (the office) voluntarily submit it to us," the team added.
On Friday, the team questioned five officials suspected of being involved in the production of the controversial DSC document.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Song Young-moo reiterated his resolve to revamp the DSC.
"With a focus on why the unit, which shouldn't have produced such a document, has produced it, (we) will fundamentally reform the DSC," he said during a parliamentary session.
"The existence of such a document itself is a serious matter," he added.
The minister also called a plan to censor and control media under martial law "unlawful." (Yonhap)