North Korean Defector Used Tunnel Unknown to South

Alarms were ignored as man swam ashore, wandered for 6 hours
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 23, 2021 2:35 PM CST
North Korean Defector Used Tunnel Unknown to South
In this Nov. 16, 2018, file photo, South Korean army soldiers patrol along the barbed-wire fence in Paju, South Korea, near the border with North Korea.   (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)

The North Korean man found in South Korea last week appeared eight times on surveillance cameras without anyone noticing, according to a report from South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff. Alarms sounded twice after the man came ashore around 1:05am on Feb. 16, but the soldier in charge of monitoring coastal surveillance equipment thought there was some error as he was making changes to the computer system, reports the BBC. The military finally took notice of the man's ninth appearance around 4:16am, per Yonhap News. By then the man had traveled more than three miles. He would appear once more on cameras before his eventual capture at 7:27am, more than six hours after landfall. He was then almost dry. Indeed, he seemed quite comfortable. He'd laid down by a road and covered himself with leaves, hanging his face mask on a tree, per Yonhap.

Helped by a tidal current, the man in his 20s—described as a civilian working in North Korea's fishing industry who has expressed a desire to defect—swam in from the East Sea. He was "wearing a padded jacket inside a diving suit and fins," a JCS official tells Yonhap. Though early reports indicated he was found in a wetsuit and fins, the BBC reports he'd hidden his diving gear under a rock before following barbed wire fences erected along the coast. He then passed through a drainage tunnel the South says it didn't know existed. It's one of three unknown tunnels identified since the incident. Yonhap reports they were built during construction of a nearby railway. This was the second major breach for South Korea in recent months. Some are now suggesting that border surveillance be outsourced to private firms, reports the Wall Street Journal. (More South Korea stories.)

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