The South Korean Ministry of National Defense reported on Thursday that an official of the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries who went missing on Monday while on duty aboard an inspection boat in waters off Yeonpyeong island near the Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the Yellow Sea was shot by North Korean troops and his body was burned later. It has been 12 years since the last killing of a South Korean civilian by North Korea where Park Wang-ja was shot in Mount Kumgang. The new incident’s details are rather shocking. “North Korea should take all responsibilities for the incident and investigate thoroughly while heavily punishing those responsible,” said the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae at a standing committee meeting of the National Security Council on Thursday.
According to the military authorities, North Korea first discovered the missing official in distress in the following afternoon of the day he went missing and interrogated the details of his drifting. Using equipment on Yeonpyeong island, the authorities observed North Korea’s burning of the missing official’s body. While North Korea refuses to investigate facts about the incident, the South Korean government should make a strong request for a thorough inquiry to leave zero suspicion.
While North Korea claims that the country has put forward a measure to kill anybody near the border to prevent the spread of COVI-19, it is only an internal policy of the country. The killing of a foreigner – an unarmed civilian, at that – and the brutal act of burning his body are in a direct violation of the Geneva Conventions established for the protection of prisoners and civilians during wartime. This is why the North’s despicable provocation cannot be overlooked.
Meanwhile, questions remain regarding why it took two days for the details of the incident to be revealed to the public even though the military authorities reported to Cheong Wa Dae on Tuesday, the same day as the incident. Some criticize that the delay might have been caused in consideration of South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s U.N. statement on Wednesday calling for the declaration of an end to the Korean War. If indeed Cheong Wa Dae and the military authorities have tried to keep it quiet to reduce political impact despite knowing what North Korea committed, they should be held accountable.
The ruling party should reflect on itself whether its excessive efforts to please North Korea might have enabled the country to commit such a crime. Even after the North blew up the Inter-Korean Liaison Office in June, the South Korean government has been eager to resume Mount Kumgang tourism and the operation of the Kaesong Industrial Zone. This must be why the North looks down upon South Korea and committed such an act of brutality.