The post said the official had been shot as part of measures to prevent people from bringing the coronavirus into the country, Southern National Security Director Suh Hoon said in a briefing on Friday.
Kim reportedly apologized for “disappointing” Moon, adding that he hoped the incident would not harm inter-Korean relations, which deteriorated this summer due to flyer propaganda campaigns from North Korean deserters living in the region. South. It is highly unusual for a North Korean leader to publicly apologize on an issue to his South Korean counterpart.
His apology could be intended to ease tensions between the two Koreas after Seoul this week condemned the death of the official as an “atrocity” and demanded that those responsible be punished.
The North’s explanation contradicted claims by the South Korean Defense Ministry on Thursday that the body of the official had been burned.
According to the North Korean account, soldiers on a patrol boat near the maritime border first fired on the unnamed man after failing to explain why he was found in North Korean waters. When he tried to escape, they fired more than 10 live ammunition.
He added that troops shed light on “material” the man used to stay afloat in accordance with anti-coronavirus measures, but did not burn the victim, claiming he was missing in the area. water.
Earlier, a South Korean military official claimed that soldiers interrogated the man, who was wearing a life jacket, for several hours while he was still in the water. The soldiers wore gas masks and protective clothing, the official added.
The 47-year-old Department of Oceans and Fisheries official disappeared from a government vessel on Monday while investigating allegations of unauthorized fishing near Yeonpyeong Island, located just south of the maritime border of facto.
Some experts were skeptical of claims the man attempted to defect. While more than 30,000 North Koreans have fled to South Korea over the past two decades, defections from the South to the North are rare.
“An official who defected to North Korea?” I think it sounds a bit strange because he has stable job security, ”said Choi Kang, vice president of the Asan Institute for Political Studies in Seoul. “Why did North Korea shoot a man who voluntarily defected to the North?”
The murder is the first of a South Korean citizen in the north since 2008, when North Korean soldiers shot dead a tourist who they said had wandered into a restricted area during a trip to the resort town of Mt. Kumgang.
North Korea has imposed strict measures to deter people from entering the country illegally over fears of spreading the coronavirus. The North insists it has not recorded any cases of the virus since the outbreak began in neighboring China.
Pyongyang closed its border with China in January in an attempt to prevent contamination, and in July state media said it had raised the state of emergency to its fullest.
In July, a man who defected to South Korea three years ago sparked fear of the coronavirus as he crossed the heavily armed border into North Korea.
His arrival prompted North Korean officials to lock down a border town and quarantine thousands of people fearing they might have the virus, although South Korean officials have claimed the man is not carrying the virus.
Earlier this month, Korean U.S. Forces Commander Robert Abrams said North Korean authorities had issued shoot-to-kill orders to prevent the coronavirus from entering the country from China, creating a “Buffer zone” at the border with special forces soldiers ready to kill. .
This week’s shooting scene in the Yellow Sea west of the Korean Peninsula has been an occasional source of tension between the countries, which are still technically at war after the 1950-53 Korean War. ‘ended with an armistice but not with a peace treaty. .
In November 2010, the North bombarded Yeonpyeong Island, killing four people and prompting retaliation from the South in one of the worst clashes since the end of the Korean War.
Earlier that year, 46 South Korean sailors died when their ship, the Cheonan, was struck by a North Korean torpedo off the coast of neighboring Baengyeong Island. The North, however, denied attacking the ship.