A man shot dead by South Korean troops Monday while trying to defect to North Korea across a border river had once sought political asylum in Japan, a South Korean military official said Tuesday.
"The dead man had applied for refugee status in Japan for political reasons, but his application was turned down and he was expelled from the nation," Army Brig. Gen. Jo Jong Seol, deputy operation commander at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was quoted as saying by Yonhap News Agency.
It was earlier reported that the South Korean civilian, 47-year-old Nam Young Ho, was expelled from Japan in June.
It was not immediately known why he had sought protection, but the general said he had made similar requests for political refugee status in other countries too.
According to local media, Nam slipped through barbed wire and jumped into the Imjin River, in the western part of the heavily guarded inter-Korean border, despite warnings by South Korean border guards to turn back. About 30 soldiers then fired hundreds of rounds of ammunition to stop him.
"It happened in a frontline area. Anybody who ignores guards' warnings and flees is considered an enemy," an army officer was quoted as saying by the Chosun Ilbo newspaper.
"I believe the soldiers did what they were supposed to do according to rules," the officer said.
It was reportedly the first time in over a decade that the military has shot dead a civilian to bar defection.