North Korean troops ‘killed South Korean official and then BURNED his body after he tried to defect’ in world’s harshest COVID quarantine protocol
- Southern fisheries official disappeared from boat on Monday near boundary line
- Officials believe he tried to defect by jumping in water with a life preserver
- But Northern troops shot him on sight and burned his body, South says
- It is believed to be part of the North’s ultra-strict coronavirus quarantine
- North Korea makes dubious claim that it has had zero cases of the virus
South Korea said Thursday North Korean troops shot a South Korean government official who may have attempted to defect and set his body on fire in a suspected coronavirus quarantine measure, after they found him on a floating object in waters near the rivals´ disputed sea boundary.
The South Korean fisheries official disappeared from a government ship that was checking on potential unauthorized fishing in an area south of the boundary on Monday, a day before he was found in North Korean waters.
North Korea sent officials wearing gas masks aboard a boat near the man to learn why he was there on Tuesday afternoon. Later in the day, a North Korean navy boat came and opened fire at him, South Korea’s Defense Ministry said.
Sailors from the boat, putting on gas masks and protective suits, poured gasoline on his body and set it aflame, the Defense Ministry said, citing intelligence gathered by surveillance equipment and other assets. The ministry said that it wasn’t clear what caused his death and whether he died after being shot.
A government ship sails past the South Korean Navy’s floating base as the sun rises near Yeonpyeong island, South Korea in a file photo. A South Korean fisheries official died after apparently trying to defect to the North from a ship near the boundary line
The exact reason the 47-year-old official was shot is not known but North Korean troops may have been acting under anti-coronavirus orders, South Korea’s military said.
It was also unclear how he ended up in the North. But a defense official said the man might have tried to defect to North Korea.
The official, requesting anonymity citing department rules, said the official was wearing a life jacket on a small floating object and that the military had obtained information that he wanted to go to North Korea.
Citing intelligence sources, the military said the unidentified man appeared to have been questioned at sea north of the Northern Limit Line before he was executed on an ‘order from a superior authority’. Troops in gas masks then doused the body in oil and set it on fire.
North Korea has steadfastly claimed there hasn’t been a single coronavirus virus case on its territory, a claim widely disputed by many foreign experts.
Observers say a pandemic could cause devastating consequences in North Korea because of its broken public health care system and a chronic shortage of medical supplies.
South Korea and US soldiers stand guard at the DMZ, with North Korea in the background, earlier this month. North Korea claims to have had no cases of coronavirus
South Korea sent a message to North Korea via a communication channel at the U.S.-led U.N. Command in South Korea on Wednesday to ask about the missing official. But North Korea hasn’t responded, according to the South Korean Defense Ministry.
‘Our military strongly condemns such an atrocity, and strongly demands North Korea provide explanations and punish those who are responsible,’ General Ahn Young-ho, who is in charge of operations at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a briefing.
The U.S. military commander in South Korea said this month that North Korean troops had been given ‘shoot-to-kill orders’ to prevent the coronavirus entering the country.
In July, a man who had defected to South Korea three years ago triggered a coronavirus scare when he crossed back over the heavily monitored border into North Korea.
His arrival prompted North Korean officials to lock down a border city and quarantine thousands of people over fears he may have had the coronavirus, though the World Health Organization later said his test results were inconclusive.
Last week, South Korean police arrested a defector who they said had tried to return to North Korea by breaking into a military training site in South Korea’s border town of Cheorwon.
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