Killing of South Korean defector rekindles tensions between Koreas

This drama is worthy of a Cold War spy movie. According to the scenario evoked by the South Korean military sources, an official in the fisheries administration would have left Monday, September 21, alone, aboard a small boat, the shores of the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong towards from North Korea, barely a kilometer away. Two days later, his body was found, riddled with bullets and partly charred.

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South Korea’s defense minister condemned this act; which he called “Scandalous”. But what really happened, and especially how the South Korean military learned about it, remains very mysterious.

“He was shot in the water and then the North Korean soldiers burned him”

According to the account unveiled by the South Korean military, this South Korean citizen disappeared, Monday, September 21, off Yeongpyeong, a small island very close to the North Korean coast which had been bombarded by artillery from Pyongyang in 2010. , killing two and injuring dozens.

The next day, Tuesday, September 22, North Korean forces reportedly located him in their territorial waters and interrogated him from their patrol boat. According to a South Korean official, the man was killed six hours after being found. “He was shot in the water, then the North Korean soldiers poured gasoline on his body and burned him in the water”. They would have set his body on fire to prevent any risk of coronavirus contamination.

He would have expressed the intention to defect to the North

According to a source familiar with the matter interviewed by Agence France-Presse, the official was wearing a life jacket and his shoes were found on the South Korean boat on which he was sailing, suggesting that he went to water of its own accord. But why ? “At this stage the testimonies diverge, explains Juliette Morillot, a Korean scientist, who follows the South Korean news channels live, because according to officials, the castaway killed would have expressed his intention to defect to North Korea. His family, on the other hand, ensures that he never intended to defect ”.

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In fact, defectors tend to go from North to South, even if some very rare cases from South to North exist. The last goes back a few years, but through China.

This story is “plausible” but questions remain

There remains also a question on this multitude of details presented by the South Korean army. What are their sources? There is a very strong military presence on Yeonpyeong Island with radars and a very sophisticated listening center.

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From the multiple observation posts that bristle the north coast of the island, the scene could very well be observed, but questions arise about the immediate non-responsiveness of the soldiers to rescue the South Korean citizen. The radio links of the northern forces could have been intercepted, as could the conversations between the North Korean Coast Guard and their hierarchy. Nothing has been revealed by South Korean military forces.

This event comes as Pyongyang remains on high alert to the coronavirus. “Leader Kim Jong-un has given instructions to ‘shoot to kill’ at all its borders in order to prohibit the slightest foreign infiltration on the territory because of the Chinese virus” explains Juliette Morillot, who believes that the event of the castaway remains « plausible ». Even if some questions remain. This South Korean is thus the first to be killed by North Korea in ten years. In 2008, a South Korean tourist on a tour of North Korea was killed by a North Korean soldier while walking in a no-go area near Mount Kumgang.

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