North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Friday issued a rare apology for the murder of a South Korean official who apparently tried to run near the rival’s disputed sea border.
“Comrade President Kim Jong Un has asked to convey his message that he deeply regrets the great disappointment of our southern compatriots and President Moon Jae-in as a result of this unfortunate incident in our waters,” the letter to the South Korean president said. Blue house.
It was sent by the Unification Division, a North Korean body responsible for relations with its southern neighbor.
It is extremely unusual for a North Korean leader to apologize on any issue.
But it came after South Korea̵7;s defense ministry said Thursday that North had shot and burned the body of a South Korean official who had disappeared from a government boat earlier in the week.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in called the incident “shocking” and “very pathetic” because it fueled anti-northern sentiment and provoked a public backlash.
The North Korean letter acknowledged that after the initial shelling, the military fired “about ten rounds” at an unidentified “malefactor” because he did not reveal his identity and appeared to have fled.
He added that for security reasons, due to a coronavirus pandemic, they burned the floating device with which he washed and did not find his body.
Download the NBC News app for news and policies
However, the report sent Seoul for using “blasphemous and confrontational words” to condemn the North over the incident before asking for an explanation. However, they said North Korea would take steps to prevent a collapse of trust between the two countries.
“Our leadership stressed that we remain more vigilant and vigilant so that the mutual trust and respect built between North Korea and South Korea is not destroyed by this unfortunate event,” the letter said.
Earlier on Friday, the South Korean Coast Guard said their ships were looking for water near the border in case the official’s body retreated. They said they were checking the 47-year-old’s cell phone records, bank accounts and insurance details to find out more about his disappearance, which remains unclear.
The Western Maritime Frontier has been the site of several bloody inter-Korean skirmishes and deadly attacks in recent years.
Earlier this summer, tensions escalated between the two countries when Pyongyang cut off direct lines of communication with the South and theatrically demolished the inter-Korean communications office, which helped improve ties between them.
North Korea also attacked South and North Korea, which live there, for propaganda leaflets and balloons that were parachuted into the North.
But Moon and Kim recently exchanged letters to share hopes of re-establishing relations after fighting the coronavirus, South Korean officials said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Arata Yamamoto contributed.