A South Korean official who worked for the fisheries department vanished from a patrol boat on September 21.
The official was on his boat, which was approximately six miles away from the North Korean border and was later found near North Korean waters.
The 47-year-old father of two was found by a North Korean patrol boat and was questioned. After he did not identify himself, the North Koreans were then commanded by higher authorities to kill him. According to South Korea’s defense ministry, the unarmed official was shot dead, had oil poured over his body, and was then set on fire.
North Korea claims that the “floating material” the man was being carried in was burned, not the body. It is believed that the man was killed for anti-coronavirus measures. The border between North and South Korea are heavily monitored and North Korea has a “shoot-to-kill” policy to prevent COVID-19 from entering the country.
According to The New York Times, “In the past, when North Korea has found fishermen or defectors from South Korea in its territories, it has usually detained them alive and sometimes returned them.”
This was the first killing in a decade of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces, and it has startled and angered South Korea. The killing has been deemed by South Korean leaders as an incident that violated international regulations and cannot be tolerated or justified.
South Korea’s defense ministry said it “strongly condemned such a brutal act and strongly urged the North to provide an explanation and punish those responsible.”
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un also told South Korea’s leader in a letter that the killing should not have occurred. Jong-un called the incident a “disgraceful affair” and felt “very sorry” for “disappointing” South Korea’s leader and citizens.
This rare apology comes at a sensitive time when tensions between the two countries are heightened due to the North Korea’s nuclear program. Now a joint investigation has been called by both countries to find out more details about the killing.