On Friday, Sept. 25, North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un sent a rare and personal letter to the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in.
The letter expressed deep regret for the shooting and burning of a South Korean official caused by the North Korean military, according to the BBC.
The unnamed victim was a 47-year old father of two who worked for South Korea’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, according to the BBC. On Tuesday, Sept. 22, the man’s inspection boat was near the island of Yeongeong, six miles off the North Korean border.
The victim was shot and burned with oil by the North Korean military, because of the fear of COVID-19, according to the New York Times. North Korea denies the burning of the body.
While his purpose for being so close to the border is unknown, the BBC reports that the man might have been defecting to North Korea, according to the BBC. His family denied the claim.
This was the first killing of a South Korean citizen in over a decade and resulted in heavy backlash from South Korean officials.
The apology is the first claimed by North Korea in a little over a decade and the first in Jong-un’s name, according to the New York Times.
In 2008, North Korea did not apologize for the killing of a South Korean tourist at a North Korean tourist site, according to the Wall Street Journal.
North Korea has also not apologized or claimed responsibility for the death of 46 South Korean soldiers after sinking their ship in 2010, according to the BBC. North Korea has also not claimed responsibility for shelling a South Korean island, causing the death of 2 soldiers and 2 construction workers.
In June, North Korea sent troops to the border after blowing up a liaison office that ran jointly with the South, according to the BBC.
In response to the shooting, South Korean militants have been ordered by President Moon to increase military focus of North Korea in the Yellow Sea, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The apology, released to the public on Friday, Sept. 25, stated that the North Korean dictator expressed his “immense regret” over the “unexpected and unfortunate incident,” according to the Washington Post.
The apology helped to ease some tension surrounding the situation as attempts to bring the Korean War to an official end continue, said former advisor to South Korea’s Defence Minister Boo Seung-Chung, according to Bloomberg.