Mystery of How Defector Got Over DMZ Fence May Be Solved

North Korean man tells South Korean officials he's a gymnast who simply jumped over it
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 25, 2020 9:50 AM CST

(Newser) – The North Korean man who arrived in South Korea this month claims to be a former gymnast, and it makes sense, as he apparently propelled himself over a 10-foot-tall barbed wire fence during his trip across the Demilitarized Zone. The man, said to be in his late 20s, reportedly spent 14 hours crossing the DMZ before he was found less than a mile from North Korea's border on Nov. 4, per NPR. Though he expressed a desire to defect, South Korean officials were suspicious of his story. For one thing, the 2.5-mile-wide, 155-mile-long DMZ is littered with mines, armed sentry posts, fencing, and sensors—not one of which was apparently triggered.

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Officials are investigating why the sensors didn't sound alarms. As no fences had been cut (but some were pushed down), officials had the man jump for them as a means of showing he was able to vault fences, per the Korea Herald. The majority of the 33,523 defectors who've entered South Korea since 1948 have avoided the DMZ because of its dangers, instead opting to pass through China and then through another country, often Thailand, per the Telegraph. But officials believe the man's slim build and athletic experience would've aided him in the DMZ. Thought to be the first North Korean to defect to the South since July 2019, he remains under investigation. (Read more South Korea stories.)

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