FPI / September 27, 2020
A South Korean fisheries official who was reportedly attempting to defect to North Korea was shot and killed and his body burned at sea by North Korean soldiers, reports say.
As part of its coronavirus lockdown, North Korea currently has "shoot to kill" orders in place in cases of illegal border breaches.
South Korea's Defense Ministry confirmed the killing and condemned what it called an "outrageous act."
The fisheries official had reportedly disappeared from a boat close to the western border island of Yeonpyeong, Yonhap news agency reported.
The official was in the water and wearing a life jacket when he was reportedly set upon by a North Korean patrol vessel. Seoul defense sources told AFP that "circumstances tell us that there was an intent to defect."
After the South Korean official was executed at sea his body was burned: "North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector after interrogating him at sea, then poured oil over his body and burned it over coronavirus fears, Seoul military officials said Thursday," AFP reported.
The report said that the fisheries official was questioned by North Korean soldiers while he was still in the water, after which they opened fire. The burning of the body is believed related to strict anti-coronavirus measures enforced by North Korea's military.
"We assess it was carried out under the North's anti-coronavirus measure," a military official in Seoul told AFP. Yonhap said the presumed defector's killing took place upon orders from higher-ups in Pyongyang.
The South’s defense ministry “confirmed from the analysis of various intelligence that the North shot our citizen found in its waters and cremated his body,” according to a statement.
South Korea's Defense Ministry said the killing is a huge and unnecessary provocation: "We sternly warn North Korea that all responsibilities for this incident lie with it."
The episode underscores that the two sides are still in an active state of war, and that even "defectors" from either side run the risk of being killed on the spot upon breaching the militarized border.
Free Press International