World

North Korean makes marathon 6-hour swim to South Korea undetected

  • A person defected from North Korea by swimming across the Demilitarised Zone.
  • He was noticed on CCTV cameras and audible alarms sounded, however no guards responded.
  • The 20-year-old landed north of Goseong.

A North Korean defector wore a diving swimsuit and fins throughout a daring six-hour swim round one of many world’s most fortified borders, a Seoul official mentioned, and was caught solely after apparently falling asleep.

Bungling South Korean forces didn’t spot the person’s audacious exploit regardless of him showing a number of instances on CCTV after he landed and triggering alarms, drawing heavy criticism from media and opposition MPs.



Even after his presence was observed, the person – who used diving gear to make his means by sea across the Demilitarised Zone that divides the peninsula – was not caught for one more three hours.

READ | North Korea calls diplomat defector ‘human scum’

The man, reportedly in his 20s, landed north of the city of Goseong on the east coast.

“He presumably had swum for about six hours, wearing a padded jacket inside a diving suit and fins. His clothing appeared to have kept him warm and allowed him to stay afloat,” an unnamed Joint Chiefs of Staff official was quoted as saying by Yonhap information company on Tuesday.

Border safety

Tidal currents labored in his favour, the official mentioned, and he deserted most of his tools earlier than making his means by a drainage channel below the barbed-wire fences that run alongside the coast.

Over greater than three hours surveillance cameras caught him eight instances, audible alarms sounding twice, however border guards didn’t discover.

Eventually a manhunt was launched, and troops discovered him three hours later, apparently asleep, his facemask hanging in a tree.

Officials say the defector, presumed to have been a civilian within the North, has expressed a want to defect.

The army acknowledged troops had “failed to abide by due procedures” and vowed to strengthen border safety.

And in a parliamentary listening to on Tuesday, Defence Minister Suh Wook acknowledged that surveillance methods within the space had been “malfunctioning and outdated”.

Only a handful of Northern defectors ever immediately cross the DMZ or swim previous the maritime border – though the final such publicly recognized incident was in November, when questions on safety had been additionally raised.

The overwhelming majority of defectors as an alternative first journey to neighbouring China, generally staying there for years earlier than making their means on to the South by way of third nations.

More than 30 000 North Koreans have fled to the South over the many years however numbers plummeted to simply 229 final year, after Pyongyang imposed a strict border closure to defend itself from the coronavirus that first emerged in neighbour and key ally China.

The incident was proof the South Korean army was “close to a near collapse”, the conservative Chosun Ilbo newspaper mentioned on Wednesday.

“Is this unit the only unit not doing its job properly? We think not,” it added in an editorial.

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