North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in in a friendly embrace at their second summit in North Korea. (image: Cheong Wa Dae)

North Korea has offered an apology for its military’s killing of a South Korean civilian allegedly trying to flee to the North earlier this week.

In a formal notice sent to the South, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un said he feels “very sorry” for greatly “disappointing” President Moon Jae-in and other South Koreans with the occurrence of the “unsavory” case in its waters.

Earlier today, Seoul said the civilian shot dead by North’s troops was a South Korean Fisheries official.

Our side expresses our regrets to you that something happened in our waters that would certainly have a negative effect on the relationship between North and South Korea…. Our leadership has repeatedly emphasized the need to take necessary safety measures so that the relationship of trust and respect between North and South Korea, which has been built up in recent years, has not been destroyed by such a regrettable incident,” the North Korean notice read.

Comrade Kim Jong-un, chairman of the State Council, is very sorry that, far from helping the South Koreans who are reporting virus cases, an unexpected and unfortunate incident occurred in our waters, which added great disappointment to President Moon Jae-in and South Koreans,” it stated.

According to the notice, the “unidentified” man, who crossed over to the North side without authorization, did not respond when questioned by the military about 80m away. The North’s troops then shot two blanks after which the man reportedly attempted to flee. They then fired more than 10 gunshots at the distance of 40-50m under the related rules of engagement for maritime border security. After realising the man had been killed, the soldiers incinerated the man along with his life jacket and flotation device in accordance with the state emergency guidelines for the prevention of COVID-19.

Responding to the unusual apology, Unification Minister Lee In-young, Seoul’s point man on Pyongyang said: “To my knowledge, it’s unprecedented for the North to issue (its leader’s) position rapidly using the expression ‘sorry’ twice.”

In a letter dated September 12 addressed to Moon, Kim expressed hope for the well-being of all South Koreans struggling to overcome difficulties from COVID-19 and from typhoon damage.