The Initial Team

North Korea shoots South Korean official, burns his body

North Korea shoots South Korean official, burns his body

SEOUL, South Korea — A South Korean government official apparently trying to defect to North Korea was shot and killed by troops in the North who set his body on fire for fear he might be carrying the coronavirus, South Korean officials said on Thursday.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry called the killing a stunning and “atrocious” act and demanded that the North punish those responsible.

Lt. Gen. Ahn Young-ho of the South Korean military strongly condemned the “atrocious act” and demanded an explanation from the North. Credit…Yonhap

North Korea has yet to comment on the shooting. If confirmed by the North’s officials, it would be the first time ​that North Korea has killed a South Korean citizen in its territory since 2008. The episode this week threatened to further derail diplomatic ties between the two countries. It also threatened to undermine South Koreans’ support for their government’s recent efforts to improve relations with the North through humanitarian aid.

With all official channels for inter-Korean dialogue cut off since June, the South had few options to force an apology or an explanation from North Korea.