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Interim Report on Geumgang Shooting Death Falls Short

Posted July. 26, 2008 03:30,   


The government team put together to investigate the shooting death of a 53-year-old South Korean tourist named Park Wang-ja at the Mount Geumgang resort released its interim results Friday, but there was nothing new in the report that could settle any of the questions surrounding her death. The investigation team blames the fact that it is not allowed to do an on-site probe as the reason why the report falls short of expectations.

“We urge Pyongyang to let us onto the site where the tourist was shot to conduct an investigation as soon as possible,” said Hwang Bu-ki, the lead investigator. Some have raised concerns that the truth involving the shooting death will never be revealed if North Korea continues to refuse to cooperate.

▽ Interim report with no substance

The poor investigation result was inevitable because the only information the team had to go on was the North Korean account of the killing as told to Hyundai Asan, South Korea`s tour organizer.

No clues have been provided to help determine whether the incident was intentional or accidental. In particular, the probe failed to produce new facts about what happened inside the North Korean military zone where Park was shot dead.

The team could not come up with any concrete facts that could help determine how far the slain Park strayed into the restricted military zone, passing the fence and the sand dune marking the end of the beach.

On a set of key suspicions, including the number of North Korean guards who fired guns, whether the guard who killed Park ordered her to stop before firing warning shots, and how many gunshots the guard actually fired beyond the two bullets lodged in Park’s back and buttocks, Hwang has only repeated the limitations of the probe, saying, “An on-site probe can clarify everything.”

▽ Only Park’s departure time and the attacked site were revealed

What the team has determined so far is the exact time Park left the hotel for her morning walk and the site where she was shot to death.

As Hyundai Asan claimed, a closed circuit TV camera at the hotel where Park was staying caught her leaving the hotel at 4:31 a.m. on July 11. However, the real departure time was 4:18 a.m. since the camera’s clock was set 12 minutes 29 seconds ahead. Analysis of photographs of Park’s body taken by Hyundai Asan revealed that Park was gunned down at a location 200 meters away from the fence.

The North Korean authorities informed Hyundai Asan as such on the day of the accident, but later changed the account, telling Hyundai Asan President Yoon Man-joon that the location was 300 meters away from the fence. This reversal will inevitably bring an accusation that the North attempted to manipulate the truth.

▽ Photos of the scene taken right after the incident

Based on some photographs taken at the scene by a tourist, the team uncovered some circumstantial evidence. The photographs were taken with a digital camera at 5:16 a.m. and show Park lying in the sand and two North Korean soldiers standing near her.

Hwang stressed that North Korean soldiers must have known Park was a South Korean tourist, saying, “It’s bright enough outside to discern things during the time between 4:55 and 5 a.m. when the North claims Park was shot.”

kyle@donga.com srkim@donga.com