Py­ongyang ‘re­grets fa­tal shoot­ing’

Bangkok Post - - WORLD -

SEOUL: North Korea ex­pressed re­gret yes­ter­day that it shot dead a miss­ing South Korean to pre­vent the spread of coronaviru­s, the South’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser said, amid grow­ing po­lit­i­cal and public back­lash.

North Korea’s United Front Depart­ment, in charge of cross-bor­der ties, sent a let­ter to South Korean Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in’s of­fice a day af­ter Seoul of­fi­cials said North Korean sol­diers killed a South Korean be­fore dous­ing his body in oil and set­ting it on fire.

The rare mes­sage came as Mr Moon faced in­tense po­lit­i­cal fall­out over the in­ci­dent, which co­in­cided with a re­newed push to en­gage with Py­ongyang.

The let­ter cited North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as say­ing he was “sorry” that the in­ci­dent dis­ap­pointed the South Korean public and should not have hap­pened, Mr Moon’s se­cu­rity ad­viser Suh Hoon said.

The sol­diers fired more than 10 shots at the man, a South Korean fish­eries of­fi­cial who went miss­ing this week, af­ter he did not re­veal his iden­tity and tried to flee, Mr Suh said, cit­ing the let­ter.

But the let­ter said they burned a floata­tion de­vice he was us­ing, ac­cord­ing to their anti-virus man­u­als, and not his body.

“The troops could not lo­cate the uniden­ti­fied tres­passer dur­ing a search af­ter fir­ing the shots, and burned the de­vice un­der na­tional emer­gency dis­ease pre­ven­tion mea­sures,” Mr Suh told a brief­ing, re­fer­ring to the let­ter.

The shoot­ing shocked many South Kore­ans and trig­gered a fierce back­lash from op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers, prompt­ing Mr Moon to is­sue an un­usu­ally strin­gent re­sponse call­ing it “un­par­don­able”.

In 2008, North Korean troops shot to death a South Korean tourist who strolled into an off-lim­its area while stay­ing at a North Korean re­sort com­plex, re­sult­ing in a halt of in­ter-Korean tourism projects. Mr Moon has pledged to re­open the tour pro­grammes.

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