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Slain S. Korean official left no indication of attempt to defect to North

All News 19:27 September 24, 2020

SEOUL, Sept. 24 (Yonhap) -- A South Korean fisheries official who was shot dead by North Korea earlier this week after going missing at sea left no indication of an attempt to defect to the North, the Coast Guard said Thursday.

North Korea shot and killed the 47-year-old official affiliated with the oceans ministry at sea before burning his body, Seoul's defense ministry said. He went missing from an inspection boat on Monday while on duty in waters off the western border island of Yeonpyeong.

The ministry said he is presumed to have jumped into the sea in a suspected attempt to defect to the North and had drifted into North Korean waters.

In a press briefing, the Coast Guard said that it has not found his mobile phone or a will in the 499-ton vessel. Other personal belongings, such as his wallet and clothes, were retrieved.

According to his colleagues, the missing official never talked about defection or shown any interest in the North.

The maritime police did not rule out the possibility that he may have attempted defection as the official was well aware of the sea current and is known to suffer financial problems.

A high-speed boat of the South Korean Navy sails off South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island bordering North Korea in the Yellow Sea on July 1, 2020. (Yonhap)

The official, whose identity was withheld, divorced four months ago and had reportedly borrowed money from many of his fellow officials, according to his colleagues.

According to one of his colleagues, the official's debt had exceeded 20 million won (US$17,000) after he borrowed several million won each from a number of fellow officials.

Some of the creditors had even filed for court orders to seize his salary, the colleague said. It was also known that the official may have come under psychological pressure after receiving a notice of salary seizure from the court.

"I was told that he would file for bankruptcy, so I gave up my loan. I had also heard that he borrowed money from private lenders," the colleague said.

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