soldiers dmz
North Korean soldiers. / Image: Sogwang

The shooting of live rounds by North Korean soldiers at a South Korean guard post on Sunday was due to a “misfire,” according to a Daily NK military source in North Korea. 

According to the source, North Korean soldiers wake up at 6:40 AM on Sundays, an hour later than they usually do. The incident occurred after breakfast at around 7:40 AM when the existing guards in the sentry post were rotated out. 

“There was no clear reason for the shooting. It was an accident caused by the inexperience of soldiers rotated in and out of the guard post,” the source said. 

“Immediately after the incident occurred, the corps [Fifth Corps] handed down an order for all soldiers to be cautious when performing guard duties and that they should all be fully capable of handling their weapons,” he added.

The source also related that there is a general sense within the military that the soldiers involved in the incident will have to face criticism (심려말씀) from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un along with an investigation by the military leadership. 

“Soldiers involved in the shift rotation along with corps and division officers, the section head of the guard post, the political officer in charge and the managing security officer will likely face punishment,” he added. 

Daily NK asked the source how the North Korean soldiers could accurately hit a South Korean guard post if the shooting was indeed an accident.

The source said that “[North Korean soldiers] must always point the muzzle of their weapons towards a target in South Korea.” 

What this means is that even if soldiers are topographically lower compared to their counterparts in South Korea or there are foggy conditions, “the bullets they fire will hit [something] on the South Korean side,” he explained. 

Daily NK also asked the source why the North Korean military failed to explain the incident. 

“They [North Korea’s military] believe that making a statement to the enemy is the same as giving the soldiers an impression that we are trying to make peace,” he said. 

“There is also the worry that [making a statement] would be akin to showing our weakness to the South Koreans,” he added. 

The source further explained that the North Korean military does not believe it needs to explain the “situation” at North Korean sentry posts, noting that the North Koreans will likely follow their “own rules and regulations” in dealing with the incident. 

The shooting incident is a violation of the Sept. 19 military accords concluded between the two Koreas in 2018. The Daily NK source’s report, however, suggests that North Korea is likely to avoid providing an explanation for the incident. 

South Korea’s military is also leaning towards the theory that the incident may have been accidental. According to the South’s military authorities, North Korea’s military made no “special movements” before or after the shooting. Moreover, the South Korean military has pointed out that the North Korean guard post in question is lower topographically than the South Korean guard post fired upon.

Given these circumstantial clues, South Korea’s military seems to believe that the North Korean military did not intentionally spark the provocation.

*Translated by Violet Kim

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