Military officials said on Wednesday that a North Korean man in a wet suit and flippers crossed the eastern maritime border with South Korea this week. Southern soldiers failed to spot him until he was walking a path south of the heavily guarded border.
The crossing represents the second embarrassing breach of border security for the South Korean military in recent months. In November, another North Korean man, a former gymnast, crawled across the border fence and was not captured until he was half a mile south of the border. The military later said the sensors that were supposed to trigger alarms alerting South Korean guards were disabled due to Loose screws.
The South Korean military said the latest intruder from North Korea swam across the border on Tuesday, coming ashore south of the 2.5-mile-wide demilitarized zone, or the DMZ, the buffer zone that separated the two Koreas after the war. Statement on Wednesday.
Officials were investigating the man’s motive for crossing the border, and said he may have been a defector from the north. He reached the shore by crawling through a bank under a barbed wire fence that South Korea had erected along the border shores to deter North Korean intruders.
A closed television camera caught him at a military checkpoint for the first time while he was on a southbound road at 4:20 a.m. Tuesday, but soldiers didn’t catch him for questioning until three hours later. When he was arrested, the man was in the so-called civilian control area south of the demilitarized zone, where civilians are not allowed to travel without a military permit.
The army said, “Our army did not take appropriate measures, although the man was spotted in the surveillance system several times since he reached the beach.”
When a person from the north crosses the land border without being detected, he raises questions about South Korea’s national security. The two Koreas have technically been at war since the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended in a truce.
The Korean Demilitarized Zone is one of the world’s most heavily armed regions, guarded by long barbed wire fences, minefields, sensors, and nearly two million soldiers on both sides.
Defections across the DMZ are relatively rare and dangerous. In November 2017, a North Korean soldier rushed through A. A barrage of bullets His fellow troops launched it to enter the south via Panmunjom, the so-called truce village on the border.
More than 33,000 people have fled North Korea to South Korea since the country was struck by a devastating famine in the 1990s. But most of them did so via China, which borders North Korea, and eventually made their way to the South Korean embassy in another country.