UPDATE 2: According to the Daily NK:
The recent shooting of four Chinese smugglers on the border between North Korea and China by a North Korean border guard was due to a quarrel between the Chinese smugglers and North Korean border guards about an antiques smuggling ring, according to a local trader.
The North Korean border guard shot the four smugglers on June 4th; three were killed and one was wounded. Afterwards, the North Korean authorities apparently issued an apology for the accident to the Dandong municipal government and paid compensation to the victims’ families.
The trader, Kim, who lives in Dandong, reported the details of the shooting accident to The Daily NK earlier this week. The spot where the accident happened was on a boat around Hwanggeumpyeong on Shin Island at the mouth of the Yalu River, he explained, where the facilities of the Shinuiju Shoe Factory are located.
According to Kim, although it was reported in some quarters that the North Korean border guard did not know who was on the boat and fired at it in the dark, in fact, both sides already had close relations.
They were well acquainted with each other thanks to smuggling, Kim said; the North Korean guard had apparently passed several antiques which he had obtained in the North to the Chinese smugglers. However, the Chinese smugglers did not pay for them and severed contacts with him.
The antiques the North Korean guard had procured included rare pieces of white Chosun dynasty china, he said.
After the Chinese smugglers disappeared, the guard tried to find them for a while, but then encountered them by chance while on his patrols.
The guard chased and eventually caught them, then they argued, but the smugglers refused to pay money for the antiques, claiming they were all imitations.
After a while, the smugglers said they would give other goods of equivalent value instead of money and then tried to leave, at which point the guard apparently shot them.
Kim also reported the details of the North’s official response. After the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement heavily critical of the shooting, the North sent a delegate to Dandong on the 15th to apologize, he explained.
In a meeting with Dandong governmental officials, the North’s delegate reportedly said it happened accidentally, and expressed the North’s sincere apologies for the accident.
The delegate apparently added that the North would restrict shooting towards the Chinese side and suggested that both sides should strengthen their mutual regulations on smuggling. He also paid $3,000 for each death as per the stipulations of a treaty between the two countries.
Kim said, “I thought the compensation was too low, so I asked once again, but their answer was that it is stipulated by the treaty.”
He added, “They promised the Chinese side that the border guard who shot the Chinese would be severely punished on suspicion of smuggling antiques and killing citizens of an allied country.”
UPDATE 1: According to Reuters:
The isolated North made the effort to soothe China, its sole major economic and political supporter, after North Korean border guards last week shot at the Chinese nationals crossing the river border near the northeast Chinese city of Dandong.
Three were killed and a fourth was wounded.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said both countries were now “further investigating and handling the case”. He provided no other details.
On Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry made a rare public complaint about its neighbor and now North Korea appears to be seeking to placate Beijing.
North Korean border authorities said an initial investigation showed the incident was an “accident”, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported.
“The North Korean side expressed its grief over the Chinese deaths, and offered condolences to the families of the dead and to the injured, and will severely punish the perpetrators,” said the report.
“The North Korean border security authorities will further investigate this incident and prevent such incidents from recurring.”
ORIGINAL POST: According to the Associated Press:
A North Korean border guard shot and killed three Chinese citizens and wounded a fourth on the countries’ border last week, China said Tuesday after lodging a formal diplomatic protest.
The guard shot the four residents of the northeastern border town of Dandong last Friday, apparently on suspicion they were crossing the border for illegal trade, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said.
“On the morning of June 4, some residents of Dandong, in Liaoning province, were shot by a DPRK border guard on suspicion of crossing the border for trade activities, leaving three dead and one injured,” he said at a regularly scheduled news conference. He used the acronym for North Korea’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“China attaches great importance to that and has immediately raised a solemn representation with the DPRK. Now the case is under investigation,” he said.
Dandong is a major shipping point and rail link for goods going into and out of North Korea from China.
Qin did not give any further information. There have been some reports in South Korean media on the incident, though North Korea has not acknowledged the shootings.
And how did the South Koreans react? According to the Los Angeles Times:
The irony of China’s protest over last week’s shooting was not lost on South Korea.
“This time it is their citizens who are killed, and they show they are not so naive after all about North Korea,” said Kim Tae Jin, a North Korean defector and human rights activist in Seoul. However, he applauded China’s protest of the shooting. China needs to show North Korean leader Kim Jong Il “that he can’t get away with whatever he wants,” Kim said.
China’s public protest is unusual in that relations between China and North Korea are normally shrouded in secrecy, to be discussed only in the politburos of the longtime communist allies.
“It is rare for China to publicly complain. Usually there is a private apology or money paid,” said Kim Heung Gwang, a former North Korean college professor and head of Seoul-based North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity.
The stretch of the Yalu just south of Dandong is frequently trafficked by smugglers, some of them bringing North Korean-made drugs into China or banned Chinese products, such as DVDs or cellphones, into North Korea.
The North Korean government is especially strict about the export of copper, which has been looted from factories, electrical and telecommunications facilities by Northerners desperate for money. But the North’s border guards do not normally shoot to kill — at least not when the smugglers are Chinese.
“Only their own people,” said Kim.
Read the full stories here:
China says NKorean border guard killed 3 Chinese
China makes rare public protest against North Korea over killing of 3
Los Angeles Times
North Korea seeks to soothe China over border shootings