SEOUL, Sept. 29 (UPI) -- The brother of the South Korean fisheries official killed last week by North Korean soldiers criticized the government's response to the incident on Tuesday and denied allegations that his brother had intended to defect to the North.
Lee Rae-jin, the older brother of the 47-year-old official, met with international media in downtown Seoul and called for an apology and explanation from the South Korean government, which he said has not shared any information with him about its investigation.
"I am still very confused about the situation," he said. "A country is called on to protect the weak but it seems they have not."
Lee accused authorities of bungling the search for his brother after he went missing Sept. 21 from a patrol boat near the Northern Limit Line, the de facto maritime boundary between the two Koreas.
He said the government had dismissed his request for more ships and helicopters to conduct the search, accusing officials of letting the "golden hours" to locate him slip by.
The fisheries official, whom his brother only identified by the surname Lee, was captured and fatally shot by North Korean soldiers after he drifted across the maritime boundary Sept. 22.
"Rescue, arrest or even killing, they all should have happened in South Korean waters," Lee said. "I would like to know where my brother drifted across [the boundary] and I would like to find the body of my brother with an accurate explanation from the authorities."
South Korea's Coast Guard said Tuesday the official had intended to defect to the North, based in part on intelligence from the military and an analysis of tidal currents. Their findings supported statements by defense officials made last week.
"The official was wearing a life jacket and hanging onto a floating object when he was spotted by the North," said Yoon Seong-hyun, chief of the investigation team, according to news agency Yonhap.
"Also, North Korea knew the official's personal details, such as his name, age and hometown," he said.
Yoon added that the fisheries official had over $280,000 in debts, with a large portion coming from online gambling.
Lee denied the assertion that his brother had intended to defect, calling him a "patriot dedicated to the country" who had been a civil servant for eight years.
"I was on a telephone call with him two days before the accident," Lee said. "And I was not able to hear any signs of him trying to defect to the North."
He added that many people in South Korea carry debt and that it would not have been a motivation for his brother to defect.
"If that were true, then 50% to 60% of ordinary people living in South Korea would defect to North Korea," he said.
Lee said he suspects his brother may have had an accident while doing an inspection of the ship, causing him to fall overboard.
On Monday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in offered his condolences to the family and apologized to the South Korean people for the "shock and fury" the death caused,
"I am very sorry, as the government must protect the people's safety and security under any circumstances," he said.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un also offered a rare apology for the killing on Friday, saying he "feels very sorry that...an unexpected and unfortunate incident happened in our waters, which brought great disappointment to President Moon Jae-in and South Koreans."
South Korean authorities claim that the North Koreans burned the official's body after shooting him, but Pyongyang has denied the allegation, saying they only burned his flotation device as a COVID-19 precaution.
Seoul and Pyongyang have said they are continuing to investigate the details of the killing and are searching for the man's body.
North Korean state media warned the South not to cross the border to conduct the search, writing in an article on Sunday that "it may lead to another awful incident."
Lee called on Kim to return his brother's body if the North recovers it and said that despite his anger he hoped that the incident would help bring cooperation and peace to the Korean Peninsula.
"However desperate and enraged I feel, I do hope that this could work as the beginning of times of peace in the region," Lee said. "Even though I do feel rage, I try to forgive so there can be lasting peace in the region and on the peninsula."