SEOUL – 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 Tuesday.
In the first official press briefing since the highly unusual incident Monday, Brig. Gen. 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 while trying to swim across the Imjin River that 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.
Cho insisted that the border guards had responded correctly.
“Soldiers are supposed to shoot those who ignore military warnings and run away at border areas,” he told reporters.
Nam was carrying his passport, which showed he had sought political asylum in Japan in June, but was rejected and deported.
South Korean Vice Defense Minister Baek Seung-joo also defended the soldiers’ action, saying the heavily-fortified inter-Korean border is “different” from other frontiers. “It may be hard to understand for foreigners . . . but the two Koreas are still at war,” Baek said in Seoul.