A North Korean man managed to reach the south by swimming for six hours to circumvent one of the world’s most militarized borders, a South Korean official said Wednesday, in a daring trip that also points to the shortcomings of monitoring Seoul.
This exploitation sparked a flood of criticism from the opposition and the South Korean media, which was devastated when it was discovered that the South Korean army had not discovered the fugitive, despite appearing several times on security cameras and his passage triggered alarms.
And when his presence was finally reported, it took three hours to arrest the man, who was wearing a wetsuit and flippers to bypass the DMZ.
The man, who is said to be in his twenties, made landfall north of Goseong, a town on the east coast.
“He probably swam for about six hours, wearing a padded jacket under a wetsuit and wearing flippers.” South Korea’s Yonhap Agency quoted a joint official quoted by South Korea’s Yonhap Agency as saying, “His clothes helped him stay warm and keep him afloat.”
Note that the tidal currents worked in his favor, and he abandoned all his equipment before using the water evacuation tube that ran under the barbed wire, theoretically preventing access to the sea in this part of the coast.
For more than three hours, he appeared on the CCTV cameras eight times, and the alarms were heard twice. But the soldiers responsible for guarding the border did not pay attention.
When the chase began, it took the soldiers three hours to find him asleep.
Officials said the man, who was presumed a civilian, had expressed a desire to defect.
The army acknowledged that the army “did not follow procedures,” and promised to reinforce its surveillance systems.
During a parliamentary hearing, Defense Minister Suh Wook explained that the surveillance systems in the area are “outdated and broken”.
It is estimated that about 30,000 North Koreans have fled repression and poverty in their country to the south since the end of the Korean War (1950-1953).
But this number dropped to only 229 last year, due to the strict border closures that Pyongyang ordered to combat the Corona virus.
The vast majority defected by crossing the border with China first.
It is rare to cross the demilitarized zone, which is filled with barbed wire fences and minefields and is guarded by thousands of soldiers, and sea borders are rare.
The last known paragraph dates back to November. Questions have already been raised about deficiencies in surveillance.
The conservative daily Chosun Ilbo said on Wednesday that the swimmer’s action is evidence that the South Korean military is “on the verge of collapse”.
Is this the only unit that is not doing its job well? He said in his editorial.
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