In this Dec 22, 2010 file photo, a government ship sails past the Republic of Korea (ROK) Navy's floating base as the sun rises near Yeonpyeong island, ROK. (AHN YOUNG-JOON / AP)
SEOUL - The Democratic People's Republic of Korea's (DPRK) troops shot dead a Republic of Korea's (ROK) fisheries official who went missing earlier this week, before dousing his body in oil and setting it on fire in what was likely an effort to prevent a coronavirus outbreak, ROK's military said on Thursday.
ROK's military said evidence suggested the man was attempting to defect to DPRK when he was reported missing from a fisheries boat on Monday about 10 kilometers south of the Northern Limit Line (NLL), a disputed demarcation of military control that acts as the de facto maritime boundary between DPRK and ROK.
ROK President Moon Jae-in said DRPK's shooting of a ROK civilian was "shocking" and "unpardonable", Yonhap news agency said, citing a presidential Blue House spokesman. Moon also ordered ROK's military to tighten their alert to protect the lives of citizens
The exact reason the 47-year-old official was shot is not known but North Korean troops appear to have been acting under anti-coronavirus orders, ROK's military said.
ROK President Moon Jae-in said DRPK's shooting of a ROK civilian was "shocking" and "unpardonable", Yonhap news agency said, citing a presidential Blue House spokesman.
Moon also ordered ROK's military to tighten their alert to protect the lives of citizens.
The Blue House's national security office said the killing was a "crime against humanity", and called on DPRK to apologize and put measures in place to prevent a recurrence of similar incidents in the future.
Citing intelligence sources, the military said the unidentified man appeared to have been questioned on a DPRK boat before he was executed on an "order from a superior authority". Troops in gas masks then doused the body in oil and set it on fire, ROK's military said.
The military said it sent a message on Wednesday to DPRK through the land border demanding explanations, but has not received any response yet.
"Our military strongly condemns such an atrocity, and strongly demands North Korea provide explanations and punish those who are responsible," General Ahn Young-ho, who is in charge of operations at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a briefing.
The DPRK is also referred to as North Korea.
ALSO READ: ROK says policy on DPRK belongs to matter of sovereignty
The US military commander in ROK said earlier this month that DPRK troops had been given "shoot-to-kill orders" to prevent the coronavirus entering the country.
Such strict enforcement of those orders may be an attempt to prevent an outbreak from disrupting a major military parade expected to be held on Oct 10 when the country commemorates the founding of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, said Chad O'Carroll, CEO of Korea Risk Group, which monitors DPRK.
In July, a man who had defected to ROK three years ago triggered a coronavirus scare when he crossed back over the heavily monitored border into DPRK, which says it has had no cases of the disease.
READ MORE: DPRK declares emergency after suspected virus case reported
His arrival prompted DPRK officials to lock down a border city and quarantine thousands of people over fears he may have had coronavirus, though the World Health Organization later said his test results were inconclusive.
Last week, ROK police arrested a defector who they said had tried to return to DPRK by breaking into a military training site in ROK's border town of Cheorwon.
HONG KONG NEWS