North Korean Soldier Kills South Korean Tourist [U/D: And Demands a South Korean Apology]

park-wang-jas-body-returns-from-n-korea.jpg[Update 2:   Her name was  Park Wang-Ja.   As her body was returned to a grieving husband and son, North Korea  reminded us that  the Korean  word for "chutzpah" is "juche":

North Korea expressed regret Saturday that one of its soldiers shot dead a South Korean tourist at a resort area of the North, but blamed the tourist for trespassing into an off-limits military zone and demanded South Korea apologize for the incident.   Pyongyang also rejected Seoul's request to send a fact-finding mission to the shooting site and refused to accept any more South Korean tourists until an apology is forthcoming, the official Korean Central News Agency said.  [Kyodo News]

park-wang-jas-husband-mourns-her-murder-by-north-korean-soldiers.jpg   park-wang-jas-son-mourns-her.jpg

(Photos by Reuters/Xinhua)

The South Koreans are telling Kim  Jong Il  where to put  said demand.   

The South Korean government said Sunday the killing of a South Korean tourist by a North Korean soldier last Friday ”cannot be justified under any circumstances,” effectively rejecting North Korea’s demand for an apology over the incident.

The government’s Unification Ministry also questioned North Korea’s account of what happened, calling it ”very doubtful” and ”not sufficiently convincing,” according to Yonhap News Agency. 

”The North Korean military shot dead an ordinary woman tourist, who was unarmed and didn’t show any intention to resist,” it said in a statement. ”The act was wrong by any measure, unimaginable and should not have occurred at all.”   [Kyodo News]

This wouldn’t be happening if Kim Dae Jung were still alive.  I know, but have you seen him lately?  We’re also learning some details  about the circumstances of the incident:

”From a common sense point of view, the explanation given by the North…is not sufficiently convincing,” Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Ho Nyeon was quoted by Yonhap as saying.

Closed circuit television footage from the victim’s hotel shows she went outside at 4:30 a.m. while the soldier shot her dead, according to Pyongyang’s account, some 200 meters short of the boundary fence at 4:50 a.m.   Kim said that considering the hotel is 706 meters from the beach, the beach entrance is 428 meters from the fence, and the area where the soldier claimed to have first detected her is 1,200 meters from the fence, ”Mrs. Park must have covered 3,334 meters at most or 3,000 meters at least, according to the North’s claim.”

”It is very doubtful that such a woman in her 50′s had covered about 3 kilometers in just 20 minutes. In addition, the area was entirely sand,” he said, according to Yonhap.  The Unification Ministry statement said that under a previous inter-Korean agreement, North Korea is obliged to guarantee the safety of South Korean visitors to scenic Mt. Geumgang, also known as Mt. Kumgang, where nearly 2 million tourists from the South have traveled since it was opened to them in 1998.

The AP’s Jae Soon Chang quotes eyewitnesses:

Yonhap news agency cited a tourist who returned from the resort Friday as saying he saw a middle-aged woman dressed in black walking along the beach before hearing two gunshots and a scream about 10 minutes later.

“When I looked at the direction where the gunshots were heard, there was one person collapsed and three soldiers ran out of a forest and touched the person with their feet as if trying to see if that person is alive,” Yonhap quoted 23-year-old Lee In-bok, a college student, as saying.

Lee told Yonhap that he and five others witnessed the incident while at the beach to watch the sunrise and that they were about 300 meters away.  [AP, Jae Soon Chang]

Even South Korean President Lee Myung Bak commented on the North’s now-familiar combination of cruelty and implausibility:

“What cannot and should not happen has happened,” Lee told a security ministers’ meeting, according to his office.  “I can’t understand that they shot a civilian tourist” at a time of the day when it is possible to discern she is a civilian, Lee said. He also urged Pyongyang to “actively cooperate” in an investigation.  [....]

If Lee has  full sac,  he’ll call the tours  off permanently.   His government can no longer guarantee the safety of its citizens there.  Nine years into the Kumgang experiment,  we have the ultimate illustration of the fact the tours  have not made  the North incrementally less cruel  or paranoid. 

Never let anyone say again that Keumgangsan is not an authentic North Korean experience.  [link]

The North  wants engagement on its own  terms:  easy money without compromising the totality of its control.  During all of Kim Dae Jung and  Roh Moo Hyun’s efforts to engage the North, the North pursued a consistent policy of “take the money and run.”  It  accepted  aid, provided it came without conditions,  and fenced off  any efforts at  engagement that might reach ordinary North Korean citizens.  After a decade of Sunshine, the punishment for stepping through the veil of paranoia  is what it has always been:  death.   

And why won’t the Street react to the murder of a fellow citizen?  As if we didn’t know who was pulling their strings.]

[Update 1:   This rates  1 out of 10 possible points on the  OhMyNews Scale, although my gut says the street's reaction will probably  rate somewhere between 3 and 4.]  

The woman was shot by a North Korean soldier at the Kumgang tourist zone after crossing into a restricted zone:

The 53-year-old housewife was taking a stroll at a beach near the Mount Geumgang resort when the incident took place, the ministry said. 

South Korea will suspend tourism to the resort from Saturday to properly cope with the incident, according to Kim Ho-nyoun, spokesman for the ministry.  “We will shelve the program starting tomorrow until a probe into this incident is completed,” Kim told reporters.

The woman identified as Park Wang-ja broke through wire entanglements, crossed into a restricted North Korean zone and approached a North Korean military unit, said Hyundai Asan, the South Korean operator of the program, citing North Korean accounts.

She was shot in the chest and leg, the company said.  [Yonhap]

You know, I’m beginning to question whether  all of this sunshine  and engagement really is changing the character of North Korean society or its regime.  Wasn’t this guy watching  the New York Philharmonic concert?

North Korea claimed the woman ignored repeated warnings and ran away before the solider opened fire at about 5 a.m., according to the company. It said the North informed the company about the death four hours later.

Well, there you go. 

Since its launch in 1998, the tour has been halted three times, including once because of the North’s detention of a South Korean tourist. Park was the first South Korean to be shot dead while taking part in the tour program.

The loss-making Kumgang project has long been subsidized by the South Korean government to allow its operator, Hyundai Asan Corporation, to pay increasingly steep fees to the North Korean regime.  There have long been suspicions that the North Koreans, in turn, have diverted some of those funds for military uses.  Last October, South Korea said it would cut the subsidies, but it’s not clear that it ever did.

Robert Koehler, who has a long head start on me, notes that South Korea has suspended tours to the North.

A muted reaction on the South Korean street may provide further evidence that there is no hope whatsoever for South Korea to become a meaningful engine of its own reunification.  And that’s exactly what I predict.

18 comments

  1. Sonagi says:

    Given the five-hour time lapse between the shooting and the notification of South Korean officials, I would not take any detail of the official account at face value, except for the fact that she was shot in the back, which would be evident from looking at her body and which makes the shooting particularly suspicious. A military installation so close to the resort is likely to be strongly fortified and heavily guarded. I doubt that a pre-dawn beach stroller could just break through the fencing. Unfortunately, South Koreans probably won’t ask too many difficult questions about this murder of a defenseless tourist.

  2. jtb-in-texas says:

    sad that so many Koreans don’t have a backbone on this… probably need more red meat in their diet… and less soju…

  3. Stewart says:

    “Wasn’t this guy watching the New York Philharmonic concert?”

    Classic.

  4. Let the South Koreans offer to pay for the disheveled wire barrier, and let’s all be friends again.

  5. [...] UPDATE: One Free Korea asks: You know, I’m beginning to question whether all of this sunshine and engagement really is changing the character of North Korean society or its regime.  Wasn’t this guy watching the New York Philharmonic concert? [...]

  6. charliebrown says:

    The real question for me is: did she jump the fence or not?

    If the answer is no, then we have a good ole’ North Korean coverup on our hands.

    If the answer is yes…. then why?

    a) was she careless? (rebuttal: being a 53 year old ajumma, one would suspect that she’d been somewhat programmed to think “stalinists, bad!” and think twice about jumping); or

    b) did she jump on purpose? If that’s the case…

    b(i)) why did she jump on purpose? did she think that the north koreans would be lenient and if caught would just be fined or deported? (rebuttal: her family background seems to be of the modest variety, so a fine would probably have been a deterrent. deportation on the other hand could have been less of an issue as she was returning that day) did she jump because she was curious? or did she have more [cue ominous music] sinister motives? is south korea training a generation of ajummas to spy on the dprk? (ok j/k on that one)

    In the end, IMHO the only logical answers to these questions are either a cover-up, or a woman who jumped into North Korea on purpose. What an interesting world we live in.

  7. Won Joon Choe says:

    I am very disappointed that LMB went ahead with his North Korea rapproachment speech. Perhaps he thought he was mimicking Park Chung-hee, when the latter’s wife was gunned down by a North Korean agent. *sarcasm off*

  8. james says:

    this is soooooooooooo KJI.

    i just love the headline of the story.

    RIP the 53 year old ajumma……don’t mean to make light of a loss of life, but i just rolled my eyes when i saw this one.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25649469/

  9. Kim Dae Yoon says:

    If she was in a military area it is not hard to believe that she was shot. I would imagine that if you tried to go into any military area in any country without permission you would be looking down the barrel of a gun and have a good chance of being shot. or does anyone have some proof otherwise?

  10. Rhesus says:

    Translation: “North Korea isn’t any different from any other country.”

    Implication: “Anyone who criticizes NK over this incident is a bigot.”

  11. Sonagi says:

    The northeast coast of Korea is dotted with military installations that are easily recognizable with sentry posts and safely separated from public beaches with high metal fences topped with barbed wire, not some aesthetically harmonious green fence passable at low tide. It is reported that last year a minister wandered into the same area and was returned unharmed.

  12. GI Korea says:

    In the Korea Times a tour participant said the day before she had wandered over to the same area Park was shot because she didn’t know it was a military area either. This area was clearly not marked well and it appears it is not uncommon for Korean tourist to walk mistakenly to that area of the beach.

  13. Joshua says:

    I once rode a motorcycle right into a Vietnamese army base in Nha Trang … with a camcorder in my mind. Nobody threatened me in the least. Lots of curious soldiers came out to look at the dumb grinning foreigner.

  14. Wolmae says:

    Please see the KCNA report on killing “him.”

    “The KPA serviceman could not but open fire at him.”
    “As it is an intolerable insult to the north side,”

    http://www.kcna.co.jp/index-e.htm

    And you think you can do legitimate business with these folks? Like take away their nukes? Well, let me tell you about this fabulous bridge in NY that I can give you a fabulous deal on . . .

  15. james says:

    let’s snap out of it.

    KJI has won.

    his regime will last.

    the only thing that will doom him is if he bombs seoul.

    he knows that.

    (actually as i’m proofreading…..he might get away with bombing seoul too. yes…i’m going out on a limb. it’s just if he uses gases/nuclear, non conventional bomb stuff.)

    other than that he can get away with anything he wants. what more does he have to prove? and to whom?

    - human rights abusing
    - genocide
    - providing iran via syria with nuclear know-hows
    - drug trafficking
    - japan citizen kidnapping
    - pseudo nuclear bomb testing
    - US currency counterfeiting
    - bombing air liners
    - shooting innocent 53 year old ajummas
    - come on freekorea.us readers…..help me continue this list….it’s like a game……..

    + whatever any reader comes up with all rolled up in one ….

    and he still wins.

    GAME OVER!

    SCOREBOARD!

  16. james says:

    joshua,

    you know art brown?

    anyways, i think he agrees:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/15/opinion/15brown.html

    god i wish chris hill was my dad growing up.

    my dad wouldn’t give me ANYTHING.

  17. [...] right up. In the meantime, whose going to pay for that wire? Posted by The Sanity Inspector @ 7:22 pm | Trackback SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: “Meanwhile, in Korea…(The Sanity Inspector)”, url:”http://proteinwisdom.com/?p=12872″ });   [...]

  18. [...] Anonymous: Meanwhile, in Korea…(The Sanity Inspector) [...]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *