North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has apologised in a letter to South Korea for an incident in which border troops shot dead a government worker from the South who crossed the maritime border between the two countries on Monday.
The shooting was the first killing of a South Korean by the North in 10 years.
South Koreans are shocked and angered by the North’s actions and this rare apology from Kim may defuse the situation.
Kim reportedly told South Korean leader President Moon Jae-in that the “disgraceful affair” should not have happened.
The letter was sent to the Blue House, the official residence of the Republic of Korea’s head of state, and officials released some of its contents.
“Chairman Kim Jong Un asked to convey that he feels very sorry that instead of giving aid to our compatriots in the South who is struggling with Covid epidemic, we have given President Moon and our compatriots in the South a great disappointment with this unseen misfortune in our sea,” the letter said.
South Korea’s director of national security Suh Hoon said the letter also revealed the results of the North’s investigation, which claimed that more than 10 shots were fired at the man because he had failed to reveal his identity and tried to flee.
Original reports suggested that the soldiers had burned the man’s corpse. However, the North insisted that it had not done so, but had merely burned his life jacket out of Covid-19 precautions.
South Korean officials have previously said they believed the man was attempting to defect to North Korea. His true motives remain unknown.