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Thursday 5 October 2023 Dublin: 14°C
# tensions
Kim Jong Un apologises for 'disgraceful' shooting of South Korean fisheries official
The official was shot dead on Tuesday by North Korean soldiers.

NORTH KOREAN LEADER Kim Jong Un has apologised for the killing of a South Korean at sea, calling it an “unexpected and disgraceful event”.

The fisheries official was shot dead on Tuesday by North Korean soldiers, and South Korea says his body was set on fire while it was still in the water, apparently as a precaution against Covid-19 infection.

It was the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and provoked outrage in the South.

Kim apologised “for disappointing President Moon and South Koreans” rather than helping them in the face of the “malicious coronavirus”, said Suh Hoon, the South’s national security adviser.

Apologies from the North – let alone from Kim personally – are extremely rare, and the message comes during a tense time for both countries amid a stand-off in nuclear negotiations between the North and the US.

Suh was reading out a letter from the department of the North’s ruling party responsible for relations with the South.

In it, North Korea acknowledged firing around ten shots at the man, who it said had “illegally entered” the country’s waters and refused to properly identify himself.

Border guards fired at him in accordance with standing instructions, it said.

His body was no longer visible after the shooting and troops set his flotation device – which was covered in blood – on fire in accordance with national emergency prevention regulations.

South Korean military officials say the man was interrogated while in the water over several hours and allegedly expressed a desire to defect, but noted that he was killed after an “order from superior authority”.

The man – who was wearing a lifejacket – disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, and North Korean forces located him in their waters more than 24 hours later.

South Korean media reports said he was in his forties with two children, but had recently divorced and had financial problems.

- © AFP 2020

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