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SEOUL — A South Korean fisherman drifted into North Korean waters Wednesday afternoon, despite hundreds of warning shots from the South Korean military, South Korean military officials said Thursday.

Hwang Hong-ryun, 57, left Sokcho, a port just south of the North Korean border, sometime Wednesday without filing the proper paperwork, according to a spokesman from the Joint Chiefs of Staff within the Korean Ministry of Defense.

About 4 p.m., as Hwang’s fishing boat crossed into North Korean waters, the South Korean military fired about 450 warning shots, according to Lt. Col. Kim Jae-hwan, a Joint Chiefs spokesman. South Korean officials suspect Hwang may have been drunk and possibly sailed into North Korean waters by mistake, Kim said.

On Thursday, North Korea’s government-run news agency confirmed the communist country had Hwang. The South Korean ministries of Unification and Defense both are investigating the incident and were expected to have preliminary results by Thursday evening, Kim said.

Seoul plans to ask Pyongyang officials to return Hwang, Kim said.

Late last year, North Korea claimed a man who worked for U.S. Forces Korea defected from the south. Kim Ki-ho, 59, had worked for the U.S. Army’s 6th Ordnance Battalion as a quality assurance specialist at Camp Long, near Wonju, KCNA reported. USFK confirmed a man named Kim Ki-ho was employed by USFK from 1984 through 2003 but could not say whether that man was the reported defector.

Last fall, South Korean guards found three 18-inch-square holes in the fence along the Demilitarized Zone. U.S. and South Korean officials suspect at least one person defected.


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