North Korea blames Seoul's 'improper control' for death of fisheries official

The statement came despite a previous rare apology from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over the matter.
The statement came despite a previous rare apology from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over the matter.PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (AFP, REUTERS) - North Korea on Friday (Oct 30) placed blame for its killing of a South Korean fisheries official last month on Seoul's "improper control of the citizen" and the need for self defense amid concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The incident, which occurred when troops shot the official after he drifted into North Korea's waters "was the result of improper control of the citizen by the south side in the sensitive hotspot", particularly during tensions over the coronavirus pandemic, state-run news agency KCNA said.

“Our soldier could not but take self-defensive measure as he judged that the south Korean citizen who had made an illegal intrusion into the waters ... under the control of our side was about to flee, not responding to interception,” KCNA said.

"Therefore, the blame for the incident first rests with the south side. This is our invariable stand," it said, despite a previous rare apology from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over the matter.

Reuters reported that the South Korea military had said that after the official was shot dead, the South Korean's body was doused in oil and set on fire. 

Seoul has called for a joint investigation after the North said it burned a floatation device he was using, not his body, amid public and political outrage.

South Korea’s military has said the man was attempting to defect to the North when he was reported missing from a fisheries boat just south of the Northern Limit Line (NLL), a disputed demarcation of military control that acts as the de facto maritime boundary between the two Koreas.