The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in South Korea yesterday called for an impartial investigation into the killing of a fisheries official by North Korean troops at sea last month, as the man’s family urged the UN to conduct its own probe.
The death of the official, whose family identified him as Lee Dae-jun, sparked a dispute over why and how he was found floating in North Korean waters nearly 36 hours after he went missing.
The South Korean government said that their investigation suggested Lee wanted to defect to the North, but his family disputed that.
Lee’s brother, Lee Rae-jin, told reporters outside the UN human rights office in Seoul that he wanted to expose the North’s “atrocities” and ask for a “fair and objective investigation” by the UN.
In a statement on Twitter, the UN office said that both Koreas are obligated to carry out a “prompt, impartial, and effective investigation” and to make the findings public, but made no mention of the UN playing a role.
North Korea should also engage with the South to return the man’s remains, the UN office said.
Lee Dae-jun’s teenage son wrote a letter to South Korean President Moon Jae-in accusing the government of failing to save his father’s life.
“Would you have acted the same way if it were your own child or grandchild going through this pain?” he wrote to Moon.
Moon’s office said that the president planned to respond to the boy personally.
A spokesman the South Korean Ministry of National Defense said that it would respond to the family after reviewing their request for information.
South Korea has accused the North of dousing Lee’s body in fuel and setting it on fire to prevent any possible COVID-19 infections.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un offered an apology for the killing, but Pyongyang denied it burned his body and has not responded to Seoul’s call for a joint probe.
Meanwhile, Kim has ordered a nationwide drive to boost the ailing economy ahead of a key party congress in January next year, state media reported.
The decision was made during a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea.
“We have performed historical feats with our costly efforts, boldly overcoming unprecedentedly grave trials and difficulties this year, but we should not rest on our laurels,” the North’s Korean Central News Agency said. “We still face the challenges that cannot be overlooked and there are many goals we have to attain within this year.”
The Workers’ Party is due to lay out a new economic plan at its January congress.
Additional reporting by AFP
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