News and Commentary

North Korea Apologizes For Killing South Korean Man At Sea, But Denies Setting Body On Fire
Bloomberg Pictures Of The Year 2019: Polarizing Power. Kim Jong Un, North Korea's leader, prepares for his departure to North Korea at the railway station in Vladivostok, Russia, on Friday, April 26, 2019. It's been decades since the realm of global power brokers has been dominated by such polarizing figures and issues. One man, US President Donald Trump, love him or loathe him, was rarely out of the headlines.
Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg/Getty Images

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un apologized to South Korea after the communist government shot and killed a South Korean fisheries official who may have been defecting to the north on a floating object of some sort, South Korea officials said on Friday.

According to Yonhap News, South Korean Director of National Security Cheong Wa Dae revealed the North Korean apology, with the dictator saying in a letter that he was “very sorry” for the “unsavory” incident in North Korean waters earlier this week. 

The North Korean letter reportedly denied part of the South Korean government’s previous accusation that they incinerated the body afterward. Yonhap News reports that the North Koreans claim to have merely burned the flotation device the South Korean man had been using so as to not contract or spread the coronavirus, and that the North Korean government was unable to find 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,” a national security advisor for South Korea said in a press briefing of the letter from North Korea, reports Reuters

It’s not clear why the man would have been seeking to defect to North Korea if he was at all, but the news agency reports a South Korean official as saying he may have been trying to escape from debt. A member of his family has disputed this possibility. 

Although the North Korean government was willing to issue the rare apology, Reuters has since reported that North Korea is threatening to escalate tensions, alleging on state media that South Korea was traveling into their waters to look for the body. 

“We urge the south side to immediately halt the intrusion across the military demarcation line in the west sea that may lead to escalation of tensions,” state media said over the weekend, reports Reuters. 

North Korea also claims it is searching for the body of the man, who was killed earlier this week near the sea border between the two nations. 

Yonhap News reports that South Korean officials have continued to search near the border anyway but have disputed the idea propagated by the North Korean government that they have been encroaching into their territory at sea. 

“We are currently carrying out the search with an increase in vessels and personnel today as well,” a South Korean official told Yonhap News. 

South Korean authorities say that they have been adhering to the Northern Limit Line, an at-sea boundary established in the 1950s and that North Korea doesn’t recognize, reports the South Korean news agency. 

According to The Washington Post, Suh Hoon, a national security adviser to South Korea, told reporters that North Korea’s apology came after the South Korean government demanded an explanation for why they killed a man out at sea.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated. South Korean “fisherman” has been changed to “fisheries official.”

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