South Korean ‘defector’ shot by North Korean troops who then burned his body

A South Korean man has been shot and killed by North Korean troops, who reportedly went on to burn his body.

The 47-year-old South Korean fisheries official was reported missing earlier this week. South Korean military sources said there was evidence to suggest that the man had been attempting to defect to the North.

They said the unidentified man appeared to have been questioned at sea, north of the line dividing the two nations’ territorial waters, before he was executed on an "order from a superior authority".

North Korean troops wearing gas masks then poured fuel oil on the body and set it on fire.

The South Korean authorities have as yet received no explanation.

"Our military strongly condemns such an atrocity, and strongly demands North Korea provide explanations and punish those who are responsible," General Ahn Young-ho, who is in charge of operations at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a briefing.

The strict orders from Pyongyang designed to limit the spread of coronavirus might have been behind the disturbing incident.

General Robert Abrams, the US military commander in South Korea, said this month that North Korean troops had been given "shoot-to-kill orders" to prevent the coronavirus entering the country.

The draconian orders may be an attempt to prevent an outbreak from disrupting a major military parade expected to be held on Oct. 10 when the country commemorates the founding of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, said Chad O'Carroll, CEO of Korea Risk Group, which monitors North Korea.

"In many ways, this parade is a huge potential viral risk," he said in a post on Twitter. "And it seems paranoia about that risk is at play (with) shoot-to-kill rules."

In July, a man who had defected to South Korea three years ago triggered a coronavirus scare when he crossed back over the heavily monitored border into North Korea, which says it has had no cases of the disease.

His arrival prompted North Korean officials to lock down a border city and quarantine thousands of people over fears he may have had the coronavirus, though the World Health Organization later said his test results were inconclusive.

Last week, South Korean police arrested a defector who they said had tried to return to North Korea by breaking into a military training site in South Korea's border town of Cheorwon.

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