South Korea said Thursday that North Korean troops fatally shot a South Korean government official who may have attempted to defect and set his body on fire after finding him on a floating object near a maritime border between the two Koreas.
South Korean officials, including President Moon Jae-in, condemned the "atrocious act" and urged it to apologize and punish those responsible.
That was yesterday.
Earlier this afternoon, South Korea's top office announced that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has apologized saying he's "very sorry" in a message sent to the Seoul's Blue House.
"North Korea conveyed the message that Chairman Kim Jong-un feels very sorry for greatly disappointing President Moon Jae-in and the South Korean people with the unsavory incident in North Korean waters rather than helping them amid their suffering from the coronavirus."
Moon's national security advisor also revealed that President Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had exchanged letters in the last month on ways to improve cross border relations as soon as the Covid-19 situation settles down.
An extremely unusual apology from a North Korean leader to South Korea, nonetheless "a crime against humanity" as referred to South Korean officials and implications for future inter-Korean ties: it's the topic of our News In-depth.
Live in the studio with us is Dr. Go Myong-hyun, research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies - our go to North Korea expert.
Dr. Go, great to see you again.
First of all, it's extremely unusual for a North Korean leader to apologize to South Korea on any issue. Was this swift kind of apology from Kim Jong-un expected? Is it not unusual for a North Korean leader to make apologize for anything to the South?
As he released the statement of apology sent by Kim Jong-un to Seoul's presidential office, President Moon's National Security Advisor also disclosed letters exchanged between President Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
President Moon's letter to Kim dated September 8th, Kim's letter back to Moon dated four days later on the 12th.
The contents of the letter and the very fact that there have been correspondence between the leaders of the two Koreas - what are you reading into this?
I want to talk about the difference in accounts of the incident. The South Korean military said North Korean troops shot the South Korean government worker dead, doused his body in oil and set it on fire.
The North, in its statement, said its troops determined he was dead and burned the floating object.
Seoul has described the South Korean as someone who crossed the maritime border with determination to defect to the North. North Korea says he was an intruder who illegally crossed the border. Why the different versions?
The exchange of letters between the leaders of the two Koreas. South Korean president's proposal for an end of war declaration at the UN and for launching a regional cooperation initiative involving Japan, China, Mongolia, and the two Koreas on infectious disease control. It seems like there was kind of action underway to resuscitate the deadlocked inter-Korean relations and perhaps even North Korea, U.S. talks until this unexpected shooting death of a South Korean took place.
What's your take?
Regardless of Kim Jong-un's apology, what remains unchanged is the fact that North Korean troops shot to death an unarmed South Korean civilian and arguably burnt to death his body.
How do you think this will impact future inter-Korean relations?
What are some of the follow-up measures that Seoul may or should demand Pyeongyang take?
With President Moon trying to revive the stalled talks with North Korea, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is likely to visit South Korea in early October with less than a month left until the November 3rd presidential election.
Seoul's top nuclear envoy Lee Do-hoon leaves for D.C. next week to meet Stephen Biegun.
Do the latest flurry of diplomacy on this front point to a possible "October Surprise" - a possible meeting of any kind between U.S. President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un before November 3rd, even?
What, in your view, does North Korea want, at this point? Is there a reason North Korean leader Kim Jong-un responded to President Moon's letter this time? Does Pyeongyang want to open up talks with Seoul again and perhaps with Washington again before the U.S. presidential election?
How is North Korea preparing for the outcome of the U.S. presidential election? A Trump 2 or Biden, what does North Korea prefer at this point?
Dr. Go Myong-hyun, research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, many thanks for your insights this evening. We appreciate it.