Mr. Kim said the incident should never have happened
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un has rarely personally apologized for the murder of a South Korean official, Seoul says.
Mr. Kim reportedly told his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, that the “shameful matter” should not have happened.
South Korea has said the 47-year-old man was found by troops swimming in northern waters.
He was then shot and his body was set on fire, according to Seoul.
The murder – the first of a South Korean citizen in a decade by North Korean forces – sparked outrage in the south.
The border between the Koreas is closely monitored, and the north is believed to have a “shoot-to-kill” policy to prevent coronavirus from entering the country.
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What did Kim say in his apology?
The apology came in the form of a letter to President Moon confirming that the incident should not have happened, according to the South Korean presidential office, also known as the Blue House.
Mr. Kim called it a “shameful business” and said he was “very sorry” for “disappointing” Mr. Moon and the South Korean people, the Blue House said. It is the first official comment from the North on the incident.
The North also disclosed the results of its investigation to the South – it said more than 10 shots were fired at the man who entered North Korean waters and then failed to reveal his identity and tried to escape, South Korea’s director of national security, Suh Hoon said.
However, the north insisted that it was not the man’s body that he burned, but the “floating material” that carried him.
“The troops were unable to locate the unidentified intruder during a search for the gunshots and burned the device as part of national emergency disease prevention measures,” Suh said in a briefing referring to the North Korean report.
The presidential office in Seoul has also decided to publish the latest letters between the two leaders.
In them, Kim Jong-un said he understood “more than anyone else the kind of pressures and hardship” needed to overcome the coronavirus pandemic and the damage caused by recent typhoons. It was the “heartfelt truth” that he shared the “pain and suffering of the southern people,” he said.
This incident could have been a disaster for all hopes of restarting talks between the President of the South, Moon, and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Like many South Koreans, they are not easily forgiven or forgotten. You are shocked and outraged by the brutal killing of an unarmed civilian in North Korean waters. It’s another reminder of North Korea’s often merciless regime.
It’s also worth noting that the northern’s report on the killing does not match what was reported by officials in the south. However, this rare personal apology from Kim Jong-un can help ease the anger of the South.
If there had been no apology, Mr. Kim’s warm letter to Mr. Moon would have been wasted. By at least trying to smooth things out, Mr Kim may be signaling his willingness to keep talking.
What happened to the man
The father of two, who worked for the fisheries department, was on his patrol boat about 10 km from the northern border near Yeonpyeong Island when he disappeared Monday, the South Korean Defense Ministry said.
The South Korean island of Yeonpyeong is located near the border with the north
He had left his shoes on the boat. South Korean media said he was recently divorced and had financial problems.
A North Korean patrol boat found the man wearing a life jacket at sea around 3:30 p.m. local time on Tuesday.
They put gas masks on and questioned him from a distance before taking orders from [a] Overriding authority “came in that the man was killed, South Korea said. He was shot in the water.
North Korean troops burned the body at sea, according to South Korea.
How was the reaction in the south?
President Moon Jae-in called the killing a “shocking” incident that could not be tolerated. He urged the north to take “responsible” measures against the attack.
The country’s National Security Council said the North “could not justify shooting and burning the body of our unarmed citizen who showed no sign of resistance”.
Officials said they did “a thorough analysis of various pieces of information” but it was not clear how exactly they gathered the information.
The military hotline between North and South was cut in June and the inter-Korean liaison office, which was supposed to assist both sides in communication, was destroyed by North Korea. However, the South Korean military is known to intercept radio communications from the north, reports the AFP news agency.
What is the background?
Mr Kim’s apology comes at a time when North-South relations are at a low point and Pyongyang and Washington are in a stalemate over the North’s nuclear program.
South Korea has called for apologies from the north in the past, but these were rarely expected. The North has refused to apologize for the sinking of a South Korean warship in 2010 that killed 46 sailors and declines responsibility. She also refused to apologize for shooting a South Korean island that same year, killing two soldiers and two construction workers.
North Korea may be taking particularly tough measures to prevent coronavirus from entering the country as it is expected to prepare for a major military parade on October 10 to mark the 75th anniversary of the ruling Labor Party.
Pyongyang closed its border with China in January to prevent the spread of Covid-19. In July, North Korean state media said the country had increased its state of emergency to the maximum.
Last month, the US Forces Commander in South Korea, Robert Abrams, said the north had introduced a new “buffer zone” of one to two kilometers along the Chinese border and that the country had set up special forces with orders to “shoot someone” kill “who comes across the border.
In the past, North Korea has also brought back people who migrated to its territory. In 2017, state news agency KCNA announced that officials would repatriate a South Korean fishing boat that “illegally” crossed the border in what was considered a rare humanitarian move.