S. Korea: North Shot, Burned Official Who Tried to Defect

S. Korean official vanished from government ship
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 24, 2020 2:37 AM CDT
S. Korea: North Shot, Burned Would-Be Defector
A government ship sails past the South Korean Navy's floating base as the sun rises near Yeonpyeong island, South Korea.   (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)

South Korea said Thursday North Korean troops fatally shot a South Korean government official who may have attempted to defect and set his body on fire, after they found him on a floating object in waters near the rivals’ disputed sea boundary. According to Seoul’s announcement, the man disappeared from a government ship that was checking on potential unauthorized fishing in an area south of the boundary on Monday, a day before he was found in North Korean waters. North Korea sent officials wearing gas masks aboard a boat near the man to learn why he was there on Tuesday afternoon. Later in the day, a North Korean navy boat came and opened fire at him, South Korea’s Defense Ministry said.

Sailors from the boat, putting on gas masks and protective suits, poured gasoline on his body and set it aflame, the Defense Ministry said. It was unclear how the 47-year-old ended up in the North. But a defense official said the man might have tried to defect to North Korea, the AP reports. The official, requesting anonymity citing department rules, said the official was wearing a life jacket on a small floating object and that the military had obtained information that he wanted to go to North Korea. The official said North Korea may have determined to kill him in line with its stringent anti-coronavirus rules that involves shooting anyone illegally crossing the border. Senior military officer Ahn Young Ho told reporters Friday that South Korea strongly condemned North Korea’s “atrocious act” and urged it to punish those responsible.

(More North Korea stories.)

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