N.Korean Defector Turns out to Be Gymnast

  • By Yang Seung-sik

    November 24, 2020 12:41

    A North Korean who scaled barbed wire and roamed the South Korean side of the demilitarized zone in Gangwon Province for 14 hours on Nov. 3 turns out to be a former gymnast.

    But it is still not clear what motivated the man, who is in his late 20s, to cross the border. He appears to have committed no crime in the North.

    A military spokesman said the man told investigators that he was a gymnast. Military authorities were perplexed that he was able to scale a 3 m-tall barbed wire fence and suspected infiltration.

    He was captured by South Korean border guards about 1.5 km south of the barbed wire wearing blue civilian clothes.

    Military authorities now suspect he scaled an iron pole and jumped from the barbed wire on top. No alarm went off. The Joint Chiefs of Staff here said right after he was captured that there was an impression on top of the barbed wire.

    This sparked criticism that military security was fatally compromised and electronic surveillance in disrepair. In fact, border guards spotted the man crossing the barbed wire with a thermal observation device but were slow to respond. 

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