Seoul, Sep 24 (efe-epa).- North Korea shot and burned the body of a South Korean official who disappeared this week from a boat near the maritime border between the two countries, Seoul’s defense ministry said Thursday.
The 47-year-old official affiliated with the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, identified only as “A,” went missing on Monday from a 500-ton boat patrolling about 10 kilometers south of the tense and disputed Northern Limit Line (NLL) de-facto border in the Yellow Sea.
North Korean troops “found the man in its waters and committed an act of brutality by shooting at him and burning his body, according to our military’s thorough analysis of diverse intelligence,” the defense ministry said in a statement.
“Our military strongly condemns such a brutal act and strongly urges the North to provide an explanation and punish those responsible. We also sternly warn North Korea that all responsibilities for this incident lie with it,” it added.
It is the first time that a South Korean civilian has been killed by the North Korean military since November 2010, when the North bombarded Yeonpyeong island, in the same area where the official disappeared, which cost the lives of two island residents and two South Korean soldiers.
In July 2008, Korean People’s Army soldiers shot dead a South Korean woman who was on a tourist visit to Mount Kumgang and who apparently entered a restricted zone.
According to intelligence analyzed by Seoul, the official was suspected to have jumped into the sea in an attempt to defect to the North.
While wearing a life jacket and clinging to a floating object, he drifted into Northern waters and was found and questioned from a distance by members of a North Korean vessel wearing gas masks.
On “orders from its superior authority,” North Korean “soldiers then shot him and poured oil over his body to set it aflame,” a South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff official said, according to Yonhap news agency.
It is believed that the execution may have been in response to quarantine guidelines of the North, which sealed its borders at the start of the pandemic to combat COVID-19.
The South has tried unsuccessfully to contact the North in relation to the case, which promises to once again increase tension on the peninsula. EFE-EPA