News / Asia

South Korean Military Defends Shooting of Defector

S. Korean army soldiers patrol along a barbed-wire fence near the border village of the Panmunjom, in Paju, April 8, 2013. S. Korean army soldiers patrol along a barbed-wire fence near the border village of the Panmunjom, in Paju, April 8, 2013.
x
S. Korean army soldiers patrol along a barbed-wire fence near the border village of the Panmunjom, in Paju, April 8, 2013.
S. Korean army soldiers patrol along a barbed-wire fence near the border village of the Panmunjom, in Paju, April 8, 2013.
Daniel Schearf
South Korea's Ministry of Defense officially acknowledged on Tuesday the killing of a South Korean citizen as he was trying to cross a river to North Korea, apparently to defect.
 
South Korean border guards Monday afternoon saw the man moving along the Imjin River toward the North Korean border with the aid of a flotation device. Defense officials say that although he was dressed in civilian clothes, soldiers could not identify him. He also allegedly ignored repeated warnings to stop and turn around.
 
Some 30 South Korean soldiers then fired hundreds of bullets at the man before he was confirmed dead.
 
Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok says the use of deadly force was justified because of the military sensitivity of the heavily armed border. Min-seok said the border is so sensitive because South Korea and North Korea are still under a cease-fire agreement from 1953, and therefore when a person violates the regulation the military is allowed to shoot.  He says the commander warned the man to stop because he could have been a civilian, a spy or an armed North Korean.  However, despite the commands, the man did not comply. Therefore, the commander made the judgment call to shoot the man, in accordance with regulations.
 
The man was later found to be unarmed and identified as 47-year-old Nam Yong-ho by the South Korean passport he was carrying.  It also showed he had been expelled from Japan earlier this year after being denied an application for political asylum. 
 
It is not clear why Nam sought refuge in Japan or North Korea. South Korean officials say they are still investigating the matter.
 
A defection by a South Korean to North Korea is extremely rare, and there are no previous incidents of shooting such attempted deserters in recent records.
 
The last South Korean to seek asylum in the North did so in 2009, when a pig farmer wanted by police for assault cut a hole in a border fence and escaped to avoid prosecution.
 
The vast majority of desertions are from the North to the South. Official figures say about 25,000 North Koreans have fled since the end of Korean War fighting in 1953. 
 
Almost all North Korea defectors go through China or, more rarely, by sea, because the land border between the Koreas is too dangerous.
 
South Korea's Vice Minister for National Defense, Baek Seung-joo, emphasized that point Tuesday at the Seoul Foreign Correspondents' Club, saying the alert status of the demilitarized zone where South Korea and North Korea stand face to face is completely different from the status of borders of other countries.  He says they monitor people who come in or go out 24 hours a day.  If someone attempts to cross the border, the military will send a clear message to that person to stop and come back, he says. If that doesn’t work, then the military will take action.
 
The two Koreas are technically still at war, and their fenced, four-kilometer (2.5 mile) wide buffer is riddled with landmines. There are also tens of thousands of war-ready soldiers with heavy artillery on each side.
  
Reports on Monday say the daughter of a senior North Korean policeman left China, where she was studying, for asylum in South Korea.
 
The French news agency, AFP, and Korea's Yonhap Television News quoted rights activists as saying the 19-year-old's father is a Ministry of Public Security official responsible for the capital, Pyongyang.
 
South Korea's Unification Ministry, following procedure, would not confirm the reports.  North Korea's state media had no immediate comment.
 
VOA Seoul bureau producer Youmi Kim contributed to this report.

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Jonathan huang from: Canada
September 17, 2013 8:53 AM
This article would be in totally different tone if the killing happened on the other side of the river.
Hard to imagine?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid