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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book 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.
Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festivali
X
April 24, 2015 4:09 AM
Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Keeping Washington Airspace Safe Is Tall Order

Being the home of all three branches of the U.S. federal government makes Washington, D.C. the prime target for those who want to make their messages and ideas heard. Unfortunately, many of them choose to deliver them in unorthodox ways, including from the air, as a recent incident clearly showed involving a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

VOA Blogs