A South Korean fisheries official who went missing earlier this week was shot by North Korean troops, who then doused his body with gasoline and set it on fire, according to South Korea’s military.
Reuters reported Wednesday that South Korea’s military officials believe the fisheries official was killed and cremated as a measure to stop the spread of coronavirus.
The 47-year-old fisheries official went missing from a fisheries boat on Monday near the Soyeongpyeong Island, about 6 miles south of the Northern Limit Line (NLL), a disputed maritime demarcation line separating the two Koreas. South Korea’s military said evidence suggested the fisheries official intended to defect to the North.
South Korea’s military said they could not be certain why the fisheries official was killed, but that North Korean troops appeared to have been acting under anti-coronavirus orders.
The South Korean military, citing intelligence sources, said the fisheries official was questioned at sea on the other side of the NLL demarcation line, about 24 miles north of where he went missing. The military believes the official was then executed on an “order from a superior authority” and that troops in gas masks then burned the official’s body.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the north’s actions were “shocking” and “unpardonable,” according to a spokesperson who spoke with South Korea’s Yonhap News on Thursday.
The national security office of the South Korean presidential Blue House described the killing of the fisheries official as a “crime against humanity” and called on the north to apologize for the killing and put measures in place to prevent similar such incidents happening in the future.
“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, said in a press briefing.
Moon also reportedly ordered the South Korean military to strengthen their alerts, in order to protect citizens.
Border crossings between the two Koreas have reportedly caused increased concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic. The north has implemented strict measures to stop the potential spread of the coronavirus in the country.
In July, a man who had defected fron North Korea three years ago, set off a coronavirus scare when he attempted to cross back over to the north. North Korean officials ordered the lockdown of a border city and the quarantine of thousands of people, over concerns the man brought coronavirus with him.
Earlier in September, South Korean police arrested another person attempting to defect, after he broke into a military training site in the border town of Cheorwon.