South Korean officials are revealing what details they have so far of last week’s fatal shooting of a South Korean tourist by the North Korean military. The full picture of what actually happened remains incomplete, however – because the North refuses to cooperate in an investigation. According to the reports key North Korean officials are not even picking up the phone.
South Korean investigators say it is clear to them 53-year old Park Wang-ja was shot in the back during her visit to North Korea last week.
Seo Jung-seok is a forensic specialist with South Korea’s National Institute of Scientific Investigation.
He says an autopsy showed two bullets passed through Park’s body. Both of the entry wounds are in her backside – the exit wounds are in the front.
Park was on a visit to the North’s Kumgang Mountain resort last Friday. The area was built and is managed by South Korea’s Hyundai corporation as a showcase of inter-Korean reconciliation.
Park apparently left her hotel room for an early morning stroll, and was later shot near a seaside area. North Korea has told Hyundai Asan she wandered into a restricted zone and attempted to flee when confronted by military personnel.
Investigator Seo says Park died of excessive blood loss from the wounds. He says based on the pattern of damage to organs, he estimates the shots were taken at fairly long range.
South Korea is relying mainly on witness testimony from fellow tourists to reconstruct the killing, because it is receiving no cooperation whatsoever from North Korea.
Pyongyang has refused South Korea’s demands to allow investigators to visit the site of the killing. It has also failed to share footage taken by North Korean closed circuit cameras that may have been pointed at Friday’s occurrences. South Korea’s Unification Ministry says they have tried to contact North Korea using a specially established phone line, but nobody is picking up.
The North has blamed South Korea for the shooting and demanded a formal apology. Far from apologizing, South Korea has called the North Korean shooting “wrong” and “unimaginable.”
The impasse over the shooting is a reflection of the broader North-South relationship, which has chilled considerably since the February inauguration of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. Pyongyang has refused any dialogue with Mr. Lee, who it describes as a “traitor” for his conservative policy stance toward the North.
For now, the Kumgang tour project is frozen, costing North Korea badly needed hard currency with each passing day. The question that remains is how much more pressure South Korea will be willing to apply until it gets the answers it feels it deserves from the North.