North Korean leader Kim Jong Un apologized Friday for the killing of a South Korean official near rivals’ disputed sea border, saying he is “very sorry” about the incident he called unexpected and unfortunate, they said. South Korean officials.
It is extremely unusual for a North Korean leader to apologize to South Korea on any matter. Kim’s move could ease tensions between the Koreas as it is expected to ease South Korea’s anti-North sentiments over the man’s death, as well as mounting criticism of its liberal president Moon Jae-in.
“Comrade Kim Jong Un, chairman of the State Affairs Commission, feels very sorry to give great disappointment to President Moon Jae-in and the South Korean citizens because an unexpected and unfortunate incident has occurred”
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On Thursday, South Korea accused North Korea of shooting to death one of its civil servants who was likely trying to defect and burning his body after finding him on a floating object in North Korean waters on Tuesday. South Korean officials condemned North Korea for what they called a “heinous act” and insisted on punishing those responsible.
According to the North Korean message, North Korean troops first fired blanks after the man found in the northern waters refused to respond, as well as saying he is from South Korea a couple of times. Then, as he moved to escape, the North Korean troops fired 10 shots. When they approached the floating object, they found only a lot of blood but no trace of it.
Troops determined he was dead and burned the floating object in line with coronavirus rules, according to the North Korean message read by Suh.
Senior South Korean military officer Ahn Young Ho told a parliamentary committee meeting on Wednesday that North Korea killed the man likely due to high coronavirus measures involving “indiscriminate shooting” against anyone illegally approaching his. borders.
Defense Minister Suh Wook said in the same meeting that the official was believed to have tried to defect because he left his shoes on the ship, put on a life jacket and boarded a floating object. Suh also cited circumstantial evidence indicating the attempted defection. Some experts say there was not enough evidence to conclude that he tried to switch to North Korea.
The North Korean message was sent by the United Front Department of the ruling Workers’ Party, a senior North Korean body responsible for relations with South Korea.
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The message said that North Korea “cannot help but express deep regrets” that South Korea used “blasphemous and provocative words as a heinous act” to condemn the North without asking him to explain the details of the accident. But he said North Korea is still sorry for a similar incident on its territory and will take steps to prevent trust between countries from collapsing.
The South Korean coast guard said on Friday that their ships were searching the waters near the border in case the official’s body came back. The western sea border is where several bloody inter-Korean naval skirmishes and deadly attacks blamed on North Korea have occurred in past years.
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Coast guard officials said they were also checking the man’s cellphone records, bank accounts, and insurance programs to find out more about his disappearance. They said the 47-year-old father of two was in debt but did not provide further details.