North Korean defector swam chilly seas in dive suit, South’s military says
By JOSEPH DITZLER AND YOO KYONG CHANG | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 16, 2021
South Korea’s military is scrutinizing how a presumed North Korean defector managed to get through a seaside drain and into the country early Tuesday, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The man, intercepted at 7:20 a.m. by South Korean troops inside the civilian control line just south of the Demilitarized Zone, apparently swam some part of the way from North Korea in a dive suit before passing through a drain south of the border, according to a translated, text-message update from the joint chiefs Wednesday.
“The person is assumed to have gone up a beach in the vicinity of the Unification Observatory,” south of an observation post, wearing the dive suit and fins, “and then passed through a drain under iron fences along the coast,” the message said.
The incident occurred in the northeastern Gangwon province, a joint chiefs spokesman said. The site description matches the Goseong Unification Observatory near the DMZ on South Korea’s eastern coast. Another defector crossed there in early November.
The man was first spotted at 4:20 a.m. Tuesday by closed-circuit TV cameras at checkpoints, according to the joint chiefs. He was seen “moving along a road in a southerly direction” inside the control line.
The civilian control line is about six miles south of the DMZ and shields military operations and facilities.
An initial review of “maritime security operations and security facility management of a unit at the area” found the unit had not taken appropriate action after surveillance equipment spotted the intruder “a few times after going up the beach,” the joint chief’s message said.
The joint chiefs spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, identified the unit as the army’s 22nd Division.
The review also found the drain an “insufficient facility” to restrict outsiders from entering at that point, according to the message.
The joint chiefs and the Ground Operations Command are investigating the incident, according to the update, “and will work out follow-up measures based on the results of the investigation and then take strict steps.”
Ministry of Defense spokespeople traditionally speak to the media on condition of anonymity.