SEOUL, Sep 25, 2020, Kyodo. South Korea said Friday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has apologized for the shooting death earlier this week of a South Korean fisheries official who drifted into North Korean waters, Kyodo News reported.
Kim’s rare apology to a foreign government comes amid growing public anger in South Korea toward its northern neighbor over the killing of its unarmed citizen.
“We feel very sorry for greatly disappointing South Koreans and the president by causing an unsavory incident unexpectedly on our side,” National Security Director Suh Hoon quoted Kim as saying in a letter sent to the South Korean government.
The letter came a day after President Moon Jae In condemned North Korea for shooting dead the Oceans and Fisheries Ministry employee and burning his body at sea. He was reported missing on Monday while on patrol for potential illegal fishing in the Yellow Sea near the inter-Korean border.
The South Korean government has determined he was shot dead Tuesday by North Korean troops and has demanded punishment for those responsible for his death.
The letter from the United Front Department of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea was received by the South Korean government on Friday morning.
The letter said that when asked by North Korean troops from a distance of about 80 meters to identify himself, the man aboard a floating material only said he was from South Korea and declined to say more, Suh said during a press briefing.
The troops then shot him about 10 times from a distance of 40-50 meters in line with security protocols and approached after the rounds were fired but found only blood, according to the letter.
The troops concluded that the man was dead and set fire to the floating object he had been on, in line with quarantine rules, according to the letter.
The letter also described the man as an “illegal intruder,” Suh said. The South Korean military has said he was likely trying to defect to the North.
During the same press briefing held by Moon’s office, an official said that given the gravity of the matter, the government will continue weighing what measures to take.
The official also said Moon and Kim have recently exchanged friendly letters.
Moon sent one to Kim on Sept. 8 and received a reply from him on Sept. 12, In the letters, the two leaders mostly consoled each other’s peoples for responding to the coronavirus pandemic and the aftermath of heavy rain in early August, the office said.
Inter-Korean relations have soured since June, when North Korea blew up a joint liaison office located near the border with the South. The office, opened in 2018, was a symbol of recent reconciliation between the Koreas.
Despite the setback, Moon, during his video speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday, called for international support to declare an end to the 1950-1953 Korean War, which began with a North Korean invasion of the South and ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.