South Korea calls for further investigations over killing of official

Kim Jong Un offered rare apology after North Korean troops shot man dead

People watch a screen showing a file image of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station on Friday. Photograph: AP

People watch a screen showing a file image of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station on Friday. Photograph: AP

 

South Korean officials are calling for further investigations by North Korea into the killing of an official from the Seoul government who was shot after being found adrift near the rivals’ disputed sea boundary while apparently trying to defect.

Seoul could also possibly call for a joint investigation into Tuesday’s shooting by North Korean troops, which sparked outrage in the South and drew a rare apology from the North’s leader Kim Jong Un.

Mr Kim was quoted as saying he was “very sorry” over what he described as an “unexpected, unfortunate incident” in a message sent by Pyongyang’s United Front Department, a North Korean government agency in charge of inter-Korean relations.

However, the North Korean message, which was announced by the office of South Korean president Moon Jae-in on Friday, largely passed the blame for the shooting onto the South Korean official, claiming that he had refused to answer questions and attempted to flee before North Korean troops fired at him.

South Korean officials concluded that further investigations are needed because North Korea’s account of the incident differs from what was gathered by South Korean intelligence, Mr Moon’s office said.

“We have decided to request the North to conduct an additional investigation and also request a joint investigation with the North if needed,” the Blue House said in a statement.

It said South Korea will also “swiftly take measures to further strengthen surveillance posture” in waters off the country’s western coast to prevent similar incidents.

South Korea’s coast guard is deploying dozens of vessels and hundreds of officers to search waters near the western sea border on Saturday for the official’s body.

North Korea’s state media have yet to report on the incident, or Mr Kim’s apology.

South Korean officials earlier accused North Korea of shooting the man, who was likely trying to defect, and burning his body after finding him on a floating object in North Korean waters.

South Korean officials condemned what they called an “atrocious act” and pressed North Korea to punish those responsible.

But North Korea said that troops first fired blanks after the man refused to answer questions, other than saying he was from South Korea a couple of times.

Then, as he made moves to flee, the North Korean troops fired 10 rounds.

When they came near the floating object, they claimed to have found lots of blood, but no sign of the man’s body.

The troops determined he was dead and burned the floating object in line with anti-coronavirus rules.

North Korea has previously expressed “regrets” when it wants to lower tensions triggered by incidents involving South Korean casualties, such as the 2015 front-line mine blasts that maimed two South Korean soldiers and the 2008 shooting death of a South Korean tourist in North Korea.

However it is rare for a North Korean leader to do so. – PA