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 stated, 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 occasions 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 method by sea across the Demilitarized Zone that divides the peninsula – was not caught for an additional three hours.
The person, reportedly in his 20s, landed north of the city of Goseong on the east coast.
“He presumably had swum for about six hours, sporting a padded jacket inside a diving swimsuit and fins. His clothes appeared to have stored him heat and allowed him to remain afloat,” an unnamed Joint Chiefs of Employees official was quoted as saying by Yonhap information company on Tuesday.
Tidal currents labored in his favour, the official stated, and he deserted most of his tools earlier than making his method by a drainage channel below the barbed-wire fences that run alongside the coast.
Over greater than three hours surveillance cameras caught him eight occasions, audible alarms sounding twice, however border guards didn’t discover.
Finally a manhunt was launched, and troops discovered him three hours later, apparently asleep, his facemask hanging in a tree.
Officers say the defector, presumed to have been a civilian within the North, has expressed a need to defect.
The army acknowledged troops had “did not 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Defence Minister Suh Wook acknowledged that surveillance methods within the space have been “malfunctioning and outdated”.
Solely a handful of Northern defectors ever instantly cross the DMZ or swim previous the maritime border – though the final such publicly identified incident was in November, when questions on safety have 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 method on to the South through third nations.
Greater than 30,000 North Koreans have fled to the South over the a long time however numbers plummeted to simply 229 final 12 months, after Pyongyang imposed a strict border closure to guard itself from the coronavirus that first emerged in neighbour and key ally China.
The incident was proof the South Korean army was “near a close to collapse”, the conservative Chosun Ilbo newspaper stated Wednesday.
“Is that this unit the one unit not doing its job correctly? We predict not,” it added in an editorial.