Recently, the Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, did something unexpected. He issued a rare apology to Moon Jae-in, his South Korean counterpart. The apology comes at a time when the two countries are not on very good terms or to be more clear the two countries are stuck in a deadlock.
This week, South Korea accused Kim Jong-un’s government of shooting an unarmed civil servant of South Korea. It also claimed that the soldiers of North Korea also incinerated his body. The killed man was a 47-year-old civil servant of South Korea who worked for the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries’ West Sea Fisheries Management Service. Several hints indicated that the intercepted man had attempted to defect to North Korea, which is a crime in South Korea. The concerned ministry also demanded an explanation and deliberation from the Northern nation for what it states as a “barbaric” happening.
The explanation provided by the authorities of North Korea was not very different from what was stated b the south administration. The South Korean servant stepped into the restricted waters without permits on a floatation device. He did not even respond to verbal entreaties from the troops of North Korea. The troops were on a boat as well.
The troops also fired warning shots, following which the man tried to escape. They continued to send him signals. After this, the troops switched to live fire, and soon the person disappeared. There was only blood and in accordance with the regulations set by the government for COVID-19 containment, the troops burned his boat.
When was the apology issued by North Korea?
The scary details of the demise of this official shocked the entire South Korean nation. The hideous incident drew massive criticism from the presidential Blue House as well as from the Ministry of Unification. Even after all the activities, both the nations have kept alive their hopes of cross-border engagement.
It on this Friday when the Unification Front Department of North Korea sent a letter which was addressed to Seoul’s Presidential office. The unification department deals with the ties between south and North Korea. The letter outlined the events and stated his deep condolences and regrets. The statement said- “I have apologetic thoughts to President Moon Jae-in and compatriots of the South for the unfortunate incident that took place in our waters”. This information was acquired via a report published in The Korea Herald. He also mentioned that the civil servant was shot dead by North Korean soldiers. He called the incident extremely “regrettable” and “unsavory,” he also stated that “what should not happen has unfortunately occurred.”
O September 22, the defense ministry of South Korea said that the 47-year-old civil servant was posted on an inspection vessel. He was shot dead by North Korean soldiers in a patrol boat while floating in the waters of the Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the yellow sea. It is claimed that after firing the shots, the soldiers poured oil on the floating corpse and incinerated it.
However, the letter sent by the North Korean government also stated that the North Korean soldiers did not incinerate the body as contrary to the claim by the South Korean. It said that the soldiers burnt only the floatation device.
President Moon Jae-in was involved in attending an Armed Forces Day celebratory event the whole morning before he received the apology. Leif Eric Easley is an associate professor of international studies at Ewha Woman’s University in Seoul; in a statement, he said that this particular incident turned the South Korean public’s opinion against offering peace and humanitarian assistance to Pyongyang.
Has something like this happened earlier as well?
It was 2008. At mount Kumgang a south Korean tourist entered an area that was beyond the boundaries of South Korean tourists and thus off-limits. She was shot dead as she entered the restricted area while walking alongside a beach.
After that incident as well, north Korea expressed their regret and remorse about the killing of the tourist. They, however, denied participating in the joint investigation of the killing incident. After this incident, the Mount Kumgang tourism program was suspended. The program was active since 1988.
Will this apology have any effect on the relations between North and South Korea?
A report was recently published in The Korea Times which may hold the answer to this question. The “unexpected apology” is deemed to be an effort by the state to resort to a mutual understanding. Experts say that it is an attempt to maintain the status quo between the two nations. This would also enable the country to avoid drawing international criticism over the killing.
It is also said that this incident of burning the corpse was a measure to keep COVID-19 out of North Korea, especially when it is preparing for a military parade. The parade is scheduled on October 10 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the foundation of the ruling Workers’ Party.