South Korea said on Tuesday a government official killed by North Korean sailors wanted to defect, concluding the man, who had gambling debts, was swimming against adverse currents using a life jacket and a flotation device and has indicated its intention to relocate to the North. Korea.
It’s unclear if the announcement will appease growing questions about the man’s death last week. The official’s brother called the assessment “fictional,” accusing the government of accusing his brother of an unfounded defection attempt after failing to save him.
Senior Coast Guard Officer Yoon Seong-hyun told a televised briefing on Tuesday that there was a “very low possibility” that the man fell from a ship or attempted suicide because he ‘he was wearing a life jacket when he was found in North Korean Waters.
SOUTH KOREA’S MOON JAE-IN SAYS GOVERNMENT FAILED TO PROTECT CITIZENS KILLED BY NORTH
Yoon said the tidal currents of the time would also make it extremely difficult for him to naturally drift in North Korean waters.
He also said the man expressed his wish to defect before his death. He cited information showing that North Korea knew the man’s name, age, height and hometown as evidence of his communication with the North.
Yoon did not specify. But some experts said he was probably referring to South Korea’s interception of communications between North Korean officials about the man.
Coast Guard officials have previously said the 47-year-old official has two children and is in debt. Yoon said the debts totaled around 330 million won ($ 282,240), 80 percent of which was from gambling.
The official was aboard a government inspection vessel before disappearing on September 21 and being killed by North Korean troops the next day.
The Coast Guard said its assessment was based on an analysis of tidal currents in the area, a visit to a government boat the official had been on board prior to his disappearance, an investigation into his financial transactions and a meeting with officials from the South Korean Defense Ministry.
The man’s older brother, Lee Rae-jin, told reporters later on Tuesday that his brother was proud of his job as a public servant and had never told him of his desire to defect.
NORTH KOREA ACCUSES SOUTH OF DISPUTED BORDER OF CROSSING TO FIND DEAD OFFICIAL
“The government is in haste accusing my brother of defection to North Korea,” Lee said. He accused the government of wasting “golden time” and of doing little to save his brother.
Lee said he “desperately” wanted to retrieve his brother’s body and sought the cooperation of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Yet he said, “I would like to ask Kim Jong Un why he killed my brother. brother.”
Lee said his brother probably fell overboard by accident.
A South Korean defection to North Korea is highly unusual, although more than 33,000 North Koreans have fled to South Korea for political and economic reasons over the past 20 years.
South Korea accused North Korea of shooting him and burning his body. North Korea admitted that his troops killed him because he refused to answer questions and tried to flee. But North Korea said its troops only burned the man’s flotation device.
Kim has offered a rare apology for the man’s death, but his government has not confirmed the man was trying to defect.
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
The man’s shooting sparked a huge political storm in South Korea, with conservatives launching violent political attacks against liberal President Moon Jae-in, who has closer ties to the North.