North Korean in diving gear swims to the South and crawls through drain pipe to defect
- A man in his 20s swam for six hours in an attempt to defect from North Korea
- Diving gear and a metal helmet were discovered on beach in Goseong, Gangwon
- The man also crawled through a drainage pipe underneath barbed wire fence
- He was spotted on CCTV at 4.20am Tuesday but not picked up for three hours
A man believed to be trying to defect from North Korea was found by soldiers in the South after having swum for six hours and crawled through a drain pipe.
The man, in his 20s, swam across the maritime border between the two nations before crawling through the pipe located beneath a barbed-wire fence, South Korea‘s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
The man was initially spotted around 4.20am on Tuesday as he passed a military checkpoint, but it took soldiers a further three hours to locate him, according to the JoongAng newspaper.
A diving suit and fins were found on a beach in Goseong, Gangwon, where the man came to shore after his swim and his footprints were located two miles south of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
A detachable metal helmet, often used by fishermen in North Korea, was also found on the beach.
The JCS said the man had been picked up multiple times on surveillance cameras and that security barriers inside the pipe he had crawled through had not been secured sufficiently.
The military had previously claimed that security measures had been tightened for drain pipes in the border region to help deal with potential defectors.
The man was found in an area south of the DMZ in which civilians are not allowed to travel without a military permit and the South Korean military acknowledged its failure to act more quickly to capture the man.
Suh Wook, the defence minister, apologised for the security failure and vowed to take measures to prevent similar incidents in future.
‘Our military did not take appropriate actions, although the man had been detected in its surveillance system several times since coming ashore,’ the military said, according to The New York Times.
In a statement, the military also confirmed they would be conducting an investigation into how the man swam across the maritime border during the winter and would be taking follow-up measures.
It comes four months after a former gymnast also defected from North Korea by reportedly leaping over the border fence.
A man in his 20s has been captured in South Korea after swimming for six hours and crawling through a drain pipe to reportedly defect from North Korea (file image of South Korean guard post in the Demilitarized Zone in South Korea on June 18, 2020)
On November 3, the man in his 20s entered the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea shortly after 7pm local time.
He was captured by South Korean border guards 14 hours later and his motivations for crossing have been under investigation ever since.
There have been more than 33,000 defections from North Korea since famine struck the country in the 1990s, with most cases making their way through China in the hopes of reaching a South Korean embassy in another country.
The majority are civilians although more than 700 members of the North Korean military have also defected since 1998, according to South Korea’s Ministry of Unification.