South Korean troops fired “hundreds” of rounds at a man who was killed while trying to swim across the border to North Korea, a top army officer said yesterday.
In the first official press briefing since the highly unusual incident on Monday, Brigadier General Cho Jong-sul defended the border guards’ actions, saying they had followed the correct protocol.
Nam Yong-ho, a 47-year-old South Korean man, was fatally shot at around 2:30pm while trying to swim across the Imjin River, which makes up part of the western border with the North.
Cho said soldiers manning a nearby guard post had repeatedly shouted warnings at Nam to turn back, but he ignored them.
The commander of the unit then ordered his men to open fire, and 30 of them discharged their weapons.
“Several hundred shots were fired,” Cho said.
Defections from South to North Korea are rare and there has been no case in the past 20 years of South Korean troops shooting anyone attempting the crossing.
Nam’s precise motive is still unclear. South Korean Ministry of Defense officials believe he was trying to defect, but have been unable to explain why he would seek to swim across the heavily guarded border in daylight.
He had clearly planned the crossing in advance and was wearing a home-made life preserver.