November 05, 2020 10:26
A North Korean man in civilian clothes scaled barbed wire and roamed the South Korean side of the demilitarized zone for 14 hours on Tuesday night.
He was spotted on a thermal observation device by South Korean border guards, but they did lost him until they picked him up 1.5 km south of the military demarcation line on Wednesday morning.
"The border guards spotted the unidentified man around 7:25 p.m. Tuesday, launched search operations and took him into custody around 9:56 a.m. Wednesday," a military spokesman said.
The man then told his captors he wanted to defect to South Korea.
The military had already beefed up surveillance since 10:14 p.m. Monday as movement was detected near the MDL but apparently lost track of the man.
"After crossing the MDL, the North Korean man disappeared into an area that is impossible to observe with the thermal device," the spokesman said.
Electronic sensors on the tall barbed wire fences were apparently not working when the man was scaling them.
The North Korean is believed to be in his late 20s or early 30s.
"We checked his identity and asked if he wanted to defect in accordance with operations protocol. At first, he didn't answer properly, but later he expressed his desire to defect," an intelligence officer said. "He's in civilian clothes but we aren't ruling out that he's a soldier."
He seemed to be healthy when he was found and tested negative for coronavirus.
The blunder was only the latest in a series of security lapses on the heavily armed border.
Shin Jong-woo at the Korea Defense and Security Forum said, "Military authorities failed to respond properly even though they were watching him across the MDL. This has exposed a serious loophole in their overall surveillance system."
- Copyright © Chosunilbo & Chosun.com