The 47-year-old man vanished from a boat on Monday that was carrying 18 other South Korean officials who were investigating potential illegal fishing near the water border between the two rival nations, the Associated Press reported.
North Korean officials, wearing gas masks, found him in their waters floating on a small object on Tuesday and alerted the Navy, the AP reported, citing a statement from Seoul.
North Korean sailors then approached him from a boat and shot him to death, according to the statement, which cited surveillance intelligence.
The sailors put on gas masks and other protective equipment, then doused the man’s body with gasoline and set him on fire, according to the report.
A South Korean defense official told the AP that the sailors may have killed the man in accordance with their strict coronavirus measures, which require them to shoot anyone trying to illegally cross their border.
The official added that little is known about the man, but they believe he may have tried to defect to the totalitarian state.
North Korea has claimed it hasn’t had a single coronavirus case since the pandemic began.