On Friday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un offered a rare apology over the killing of a South Korean citizen at sea, describing the incident as “defective and unexpected,” according to the presidential office in Seoul. It is extremely rare for North Korea, and indeed Kim personally, to offer apologies. The message comes in light of the stalemate in inter-Korean relations and amid stalled nuclear talks between Pyongyang and Washington. Analysts said that North Korea is seeking to appease its neighbor after the incident, which is the first carried out by North Korean forces against a citizen of the southern part in a decade, and sparked anger in South Korea. The official in the fisheries sector was shot dead, Tuesday, by North Korean soldiers, while Seoul reported that his body was set ablaze, while he was at sea, as a precaution, apparently, for fear of transmitting Covid-19 infection. Kim apologized for the “disappointment” the accident caused to the South Korean people and President Moon Jae-in, instead of helping them confront the “virulent Corona virus.” Pyongyang admitted to firing about ten bullets at the man who “entered our waters illegally” and refused to identify himself properly. It reported that border guards shot him in accordance with the orders applied in this regard. “It is extremely rare for North Korea’s supreme leader to make a special apology to the South Koreans and their president,” said Ahn Chan-il, a North Korean defector who has become a researcher based in Seoul. He continued, “I think this is the first time since the killing with the Korean ax in 1976,” referring to the killing of two American officers in the demilitarized zone that divides the peninsula. “Kim Jong Un’s supposed apology reduces the risk of escalation between the two Koreas and keeps the Moon government’s hopes for communication alive,” said Lev Erik Ezley, a professor at Iowa University in Seoul. “It is a diplomatic move … that avoids potential fighting in the short term and preserves the option of reaping the long-term benefits from Seoul,” he said.
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