North Korea warns of tensions during search of slain South Korean

Nellie Chapman
September 27, 2020

South Korea's military and coast guard responded to North Korea's claim of a border incursion by saying their ships and aircraft have been searching waters south of the boundary since Friday in case the official's body drifts back.

A North Korean flag flutters on top of the 160-metre tall tower at North Korea's propaganda village of Gijungdong, in this picture taken from Tae Sung freedom village near the Military Demarcation Line (MDL), inside the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, South Korea, September 30, 2019.

The agency reported that North Korea is poised to organize its own search operation to recover the official's remains, noting that in case the body is retrieved from the sea, it may be handed over to Seoul.

"We have made a decision to request the North to conduct an additional investigation and also request a joint investigation with the North if needed", the Blue House said in a statement.

South Korea's President Moon Jae-in faces intense political fallout over the incident, which coincided with a renewed push by him for engagement with Pyongyang. But it did not say whether the notification included Kim's apology.

At first, South Korean authorities said the man had entered North Korean waters in a possible attempt to defect, although his family denies that this was his motivation.

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The 47-year-old official went missing while inspecting the waters near the border.

The North is apparently wary of moves made by the South to find the official's body. They have fought at least three bloody naval skirmishes since 1999 and attacks blamed on North Korea killed 50 South Koreans there in 2010.

There have been conflicting accounts as to what happened to the man after he was seized by North Korean troops.

The regime announced more than 10 shots were fired at the man after he failed to reveal his identity and tried to flee North Korean waters.

On Saturday, South Korea's presidential office said it will demand North Korea carry out an additional or joint investigation into the killing to figure out exactly what happened.

North Korea has previously expressed "regrets" when it wanted to lower tensions triggered by incidents involving South Korean casualties, such as the 2015 front-line mine blasts that maimed two South Korean soldiers and the 2008 shooting death of a South Korean tourist in North Korea.

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