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Reports on official killed by N. Korea show discrepancies

Reports on official killed by N. Korea show discrepancies

Posted September. 26, 2020 07:39,   

Updated September. 26, 2020 08:09


Following the revelation of North Korea’s statement by the South Korean presidential office Cheong Wa Dae on Friday, controversy regarding North Korea’s recent killing of a South Korean official surnamed Lee affiliated with the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries is growing as details depicting his shooting are quite different between the South and the North. Amid harsh criticism for the South Korean military that failed to take any action during the golden time of first six hours since he went missing, new details opposing or reversing the military’s judgment emerged in just one day.

“We are truly regretful that South Korea’s military authorities chose to use the words of disrespectful and confrontational tone, such as an act of brutality and paying the price, based on their one-sided conjecture without any investigation into the illegal intruder or explanation about the investigation process,” said North Korea in its statement sent on Friday. In particular, the statement did not contain details about North Korean troops burning Lee’s body or his statement on defecting to the North. Some say that this will increase suspicions about where and how the South Korean military received intelligence regarding the incident.

The reported whereabouts of Lee between when he was discovered by North Korean troops in the waters near Deungsan cape at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday and when he was shot to death are different between the South and the North. North Korea refers to Lee as an “unidentified person” and “illegal intruder” according to its military service regulations to explain the reasons for shooting. “When we asked the illegal intruder aboard a floating material to identify himself from a distance of about 80 meters, he only said he was from South Korea and declined to say more,” said the statement. “As he refused to respond to our troops’ questions, we fired two blanks, at which point the unidentified person lied on his face and attempted to escape.”

The two Koreas’ accounts of who directed the killing of Lee also differ. The South Korean military emphasized that the shooting was intentional claiming that the shooting and burning were ordered by a senior officer during a briefing on Thursday while the North claimed that the captain of a North Korean navy boat who was aboard the boat made such a decision.

While both Koreas say that Lee was aboard a floating object, the possibility that the floating matter, which was cited by the South Korean military as a ground for his attempt to defect, was in the North Korean waters cannot be excluded according to the North’s claims. There is a possibility that Lee fell from his fisheries inspection boat into waters and found a floating matter while drifting. “As his family claims that there is no reason for Lee to defect to North Korea, it seems necessary for the South Korean military to directly address such a suspicion,” said a military member.

Kyu-Jin Shin newjin@donga.com