A North Korean defector wore a diving suit and fins during a daring six-hour swim around one of the world’s most fortified borders, a Seoul official said, and was not captured until after s ‘apparently asleep.
South Korean Bungling forces failed to spot the man’s daring feat despite appearing repeatedly on CCTV after he landed and raised alarms, drawing sharp criticism from media and MPs of the opposition.
Even after noticing his presence, the man – who was using snorkel gear to force his way by sea around the demilitarized zone that divides the peninsula – was not captured for another three hours.
The man, who is believed to be in his twenties, landed north of Goseong town on the east coast.
“He presumably swam for about six hours, wearing a padded jacket inside a diving suit and fins. His clothes seem to have kept him warm and kept him afloat,” Yonhap said. , an unidentified staff official. news agency Tuesday.
The tidal currents worked in his favor, the official said, and he ditched most of his gear before making his way through a drainage channel under the barbed wire that runs along the coast.
For more than three hours, surveillance cameras caught him eight times, audible alarms sounding twice, but border guards did not notice.
Eventually, a manhunt was launched and troops found him three hours later, apparently asleep, his face mask hanging from a tree.
Officials say the defector, believed to be a civilian in the north, has expressed a desire to defect.
The military admitted that the troops had “not followed due process” and promised to strengthen border security.
And during a parliamentary hearing on Tuesday, Defense Minister Suh Wook admitted surveillance systems in the region were “flawed and outdated.”
Only a handful of deserters from the north swim directly through the demilitarized zone or swim across the sea border – although the last publicly known incident of this type was in November, when security concerns were also raised.
The vast majority of defectors first go to neighboring China, sometimes staying there for years before heading south via third countries.
More than 30,000 North Koreans have fled south over the decades, but the number fell to just 229 last year, after Pyongyang imposed a strict border closure to protect itself from the coronavirus that emerged for the country. first time in neighboring and key ally China.
The incident was proof that the South Korean military was “on the verge of collapse,” conservative newspaper Chosun Ilbo said on Wednesday.
“Is this unit the only unit that is not doing its job well? We don’t think so,” he added in an editorial.
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