North Korea 'killed and burned South Korean official'

Elias Hubbard
September 24, 2020

A South Korean official who disappeared off a government ship near the disputed sea boundary with North Korea this week may be in North Korea, South Korea's Defense Ministry said Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020.

But it is unclear what active links are still in place, or whether Pyongyang will respond, given the regime's announcement last June that it was severing all official communications with Seoul in protest of South Korean activists' dispatches of propaganda leaflets across the border.

"He was shot dead in the water", the military official told AFP.

"Our military strongly condemns such an atrocity, and strongly demands North Korea provide explanations and punish those who are responsible", General Ahn Young-ho, who is in charge of operations at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a briefing.

There were two naval engagements between the two countries' navies in 1999 and 2002, both yielding dozens of casualties, while Large Yeonpyeong Island was notably shelled by North Korean coastal artillery in a major provocation in 2010 that killed four South Korean soldiers and civilians.

Upon finding the official at sea at around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, crew members of a North Korean vessel put gas masks on and questioned him from a distance while leaving him in the waters.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga spoke by phone with South Korean President Moon Jae In on Thursday morning, the first talks between the leaders of the neighboring countries in nine months amid a diplomatic feud over export controls and compensation for wartime labor.

He said the authorities are looking more into the exact motive of the fisheries official's intention to go over to North Korea.

North Korea has made all-out efforts to stave off the new coronavirus.

The burning appears to have been intended as a precaution against the coronavirus, in response to which Pyongyang has closed its borders and declared an emergency.

Last week, South Korean police arrested a defector who they said had tried to return to North Korea by breaking into a military training site in South Korea's border town of Cheorwon. Colleagues noticed the man was missing at lunch time and found only his shoes still on the vessel, prompting a so-far fruitless search involving aircraft and ships.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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