With all official channels of communication with the North having been cut off since June, South Korea sent a message through a cross-border telephone hotline between North Korea and the United Nations Command, demanding that the North explain why it had killed a South Korean citizen.
The text of the North’s message on Friday, which contained Mr. Kim’s apology, was disclosed to the news media by Suh Hoon, the director of national security at Mr. Moon’s presidential Blue House. Mr. Suh did not specify how the message was delivered; his original statement used wording that could mean it had been a telephone message, but presidential aides later clarified that it was not. North Korean state media had yet to report on the message as of Friday evening.
In the message, North Korea denied that its soldiers had burned the body of the South Korean official, and it offered an account that differed from the South’s in other key details.
When the crew of a North Korean ship found the official adrift on Tuesday, they approached and asked him to identify himself, according to the North’s account. The man said only that he was from the South, and when he refused to answer further questions, the North Korean ship moved closer, firing two warning shots, the North said.
Then the man ducked in surprise and appeared to try to escape, the North said.
“Our soldiers fired about 10 shots at the illegal intruder, based on a decision made by our ship’s captain and according to operational guidelines of maritime security,” the North’s message read. When the shooting took place, the ship was 44 to 55 yards from the man, it read.
The North Korean crew later found a flotation device that the man had been using, which had a great deal of blood on it, but not the man himself, according to the message.
“Our military concluded that the illegal intruder was shot and killed, and burned his floatable device according to our epidemiological regulations,” it said.