NORTH Korea has brutally executed a South Korean official before burning his body, Seoul have clamed.
The fisheries official was said to be attempting to defect to the North when he was reported missing from a boat about six miles south of the border on Monday.
The 47-year-old left behind his shoes and took a life jacket before diving into the water near the island of Yeonpyeong.
He was found exhausted and clutching a flotation device by a North Korean vessel.
The man was taken aboard and then interrogated before being shot dead, according to “diverse intelligence” gathered by spies.
South Korea‘s military intelligence claimed soldiers wearing gas masks then poured oil over his body and set it alight.
It was said the unidentified official appeared to have been executed on an “order from a superior authority”.
Kim Jong-un‘s troops are believed to have been given “shoot-to-kill orders” to prevent the coronavirus entering the country.
North Korea has not yet commented on the execution.
It comes after a man who crossed the border from the South triggered a coronavirus scare which ended up with the North Korean city of Kaesong left in lockdown in July.
Pyongyang has consistently claimed it has no confirmed cases of coronavirus, which would make one of the just a handful of countries worldwide.
South Korea has condemned the violent killing as a “brutal act” and urged the North to “provide an explanation and punish those responsible”.
General Ahn Young-ho, head of operations at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said: “Our military strongly condemns such an atrocity, and strongly demands North Korea provide explanations and punish those who are responsible.”
Kim’s latest brutal execution allegedly comes after five North Korea officials were killed after they criticised Kim Jong-un’s for leaving the country’s finances in tatters.
North Korea is known for its brutal crushing of dissent and never hesitates to take action against critics who may undermine the dictator.
The dictator’s regime has also reportedly this year executed suspected coronavirus patients for not obeying isolation rules.
Defectors have told stories of other brutal executions, including 11 musicians being blown apart by anti-aircraft guns.
Many believe Kim is attempting to secure his grip on power amid the pandemic and other major problems facing the North.
It has been compared it to the days after the death of Kim Jong-il, when Kim ran a series of purges as he attempted to secure his position.
Kim has been taking an increasingly aggressive stance towards the South in recent months despite overtures of peace after warming up relations in 2018.
The two countries have remained technical at war for the past 70 years as no peace treaty was signed at the end of the Korean War.
The killing of the South Korean official came as South Korea’s President Moon Jae-In called for a formal end to the war at the United Nations.
He said a treaty could pave the way for denuclearisation and peace.
The call for peace comes as the countries mark the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the brutal war this year, which ended in an armistice in 1953.
President Moon told the assembly in a pre-recorded video: “Time has come to remove the tragedy lingering on the Korean Peninsula.
“The war must end, completely and for good.”
Kim’s sister Kim Yo-jong is now believed to be heading up policy on how to deal with the US and the South.
Her new position comes amid ongoing rumours of Kim’s poor health, with some claiming he has recently been in a coma or is struggling to walk.
Relations have between the North and South have frosted over, and talks have stalled between Kim and US President Donald Trump.
And in a brazen stunt, North Korea blew up a highly symbolic diplomatic office which was used to coordinate talks between the two sides back in June.
North Korea is notoriously secretive but it is believed the regime is being stretched to the brink.
Floods have combined with the coronavirus pandemic, the ongoing famine, and a buckling economy amid heavy trade sanctions.
It is believed some 60 per cent of North Koreans, around 15million people, live in absolutely poverty, according to a recent study by Vienna University.
Its GDP per capita is estimated to be around $790 – while in the UK it is around $41k – despite the extraordinary wealth of Kim and the country’s elite.