S. Korean Forces Search for Body of Official Shot by N. Korean Patrol

south korean coast guard patrol
Korea Coast Guard cutter (file image)

Published Sep 27, 2020 8:13 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Sunday, South Korean forces continued a search for the remains of a fisheries official who was killed by North Korean patrol last week. The search has drawn objections from Pyongyang, though its top leadership has acknowledged the killing and issued a rare apology for the official's death. 

South Korean officials believe that the fisheries officer may have abandoned his patrol boat purposefully in an attempt to defect to the North. In the account released by South Korea's military, North Korean servicemembers allegedly found the man, shot him and then burned his body. In Pyongyang's account, North Korean border forces found an "illegal intruder" floating on an object near the demarcation line; they shot him, lost track of his body and burned the floating object (but not his remains). 

“Our military concluded that the illegal intruder was shot and killed, and burned his floatable device according to our epidemiological regulations,” the North said in an apology for the incident. 

As of Saturday, 39 South Korean Coast Guard and Navy vessels were deployed to search the area along the Northern Limit Line, which demarcates North and South Korean waters off the peninsula's western coast. South Korea's government says that the patrols have remained south of the line. The boundary's contours are disputed, and the North asserts that it should be located well south of its historic position.

“We urge the South side to immediately halt the intrusion across the military demarcation line in the West Sea that may lead to escalation of tensions,” said North Korea's state-owned Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). “It arouses our due vigilance as it may lead to another awful incident.”

The government of South Korean President Moon Jae-in has proposed that both sides conduct a joint investigation into the incident. South Korean investigators are continuing an inquiry into the circumstances of the victim's disappearance.