September 28, 2020 11:13
President Moon Jae-in on Sunday said he views "positively" North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's "swift" apology for the killing at sea of a South Korean official.
Speaking in an emergency meeting at Cheong Wa, Moon also called for further investigation of the killing and the restoration of a military hotline between the two countries.
Kim sent a letter to Moon on Friday saying he was "greatly sorry" for the "unfortunate" incident that "should not have happened."
Kim admitted that North Korean soldiers fired over 10 rounds last Tuesday into the official, who had been spotted adrift near the maritime border in the West Sea after he went missing from a South Korean fisheries patrol boat a day earlier. But Kim claimed the soldiers did not incinerate the body, which had "disappeared," but only "floating materials" like his life vest for fear of coronavirus contamination.
Suh Choo-suk, a Cheong Wa Dae security official, told reporters, "We request a joint investigation with North Korea to get to the truth quickly."
But Suh expressed no sympathy for the victim's bereaved family nor apologized to the South Korean public for hushing up the murder for two days, even though Moon has come under intense fire at home over his handling of the incident.
South Korea mobilized 39 ships and six aircraft to look for the civilian's body following Kim’s apology. By then North Korea had recovered its usual belligerence and warned the South to stay away from its waters during the search.
Cheong Wa Dae hushed up the murder until the late morning of Sept. 24, apparently so Moon could deliver a pre-recorded speech to a virtual session of the UN General Assembly the previous day in which he called for a peace treaty with North Korea.
Both the presidential office and the Defense Ministry lied to the public after the official's disappearance was first reported on Sept. 22.
They later claimed the official had wanted to "defect" to North Korea, but by then they had forfeited their credibility in the matter.
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