North Korea says shooting death of South Korean man was self-defensive measure

A North Korean flag flies on a mast at the Permanent Mission of North Korea in Geneva October 2, 2014.
PHOTO: Reuters file

SEOUL - North Korea said the shooting death of a South Korean man in its waters last month was a self-defensive measure amid concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus, state media reported on Friday.

North Korean troops shot dead a South Korean fisheries official who went missing in late September, before dousing his body in oil and setting it on fire, South Korea’s military have said.

Seoul has called for a joint investigation after the North said it burned a floatation device he was using, not his body, amid public and political outrage.

The North’s official KCNA news agency accused South Korean opposition lawmakers of stoking controversy over the issue, blaming Seoul for failing to stop him from crossing the maritime border into the North.

“Our soldier could not but take self-defensive measure as he judged that the South Korean citizen who had made an illegal intrusion into the waters ... under the control of our side was about to flee, not responding to interception,” KCNA said.

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The incident was “the result of improper control of the citizen by the south side in the sensitive hotspot at a time when there are tension and danger due to the vicious virus sweeping the whole of South Korea,” it added.

“Therefore, the blame for the incident first rests with the south side.”

South Korea’s military has said the man was attempting to defect to the North when he was reported missing from a fisheries boat just south of the Northern Limit Line (NLL), a disputed demarcation of military control that acts as the de facto maritime boundary between the two Koreas.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made a rare apology for the killing days after the incident, saying it was to prevent any coronavirus outbreak.