The crossing of the border by a defector from North Korea who swam his way across the eastern maritime border last February 16 was discovered by the South Korea’s military for at least three hours, which showed an apparent shortcoming in securing the border.
On Tuesday, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff disclosed that the man’s border breach came to the knowledge of the military surveillance system at 4:16 a.m. but it took hold of the defector in time he entered South Korea at 1:05 a.m.. This information was relayed to commanders later.
The man has managed to swim towards South Korea without being caught, all while he was equipped with diving gear and has slashed through a drainpipe below a wire fencing along the beaches in the eastern frontier. He was then put under custody while he was seen walking along the path near the heavily-guarded Demilitarized Zone that divides the North and South Koreas.
According to the military, the alarms were set off when the defector was detected by the security cameras overlooking the beaches. The soldier on post, however, was left unaware.
The man was also found to have spent at least six hours swimming using a wetsuit with flippers, the military added.
The defector, who is estimated to age around 20s, had not managed to stand the cold water due to the winter without being armed with advanced diving gear and military training, critics suspect.
“He was wearing a padded jacket inside and the water was flowing south that day,” the military claimed, as they said the man had spent long hours floating given the additional weight by his jacket inside.
The military also said that the defector is believed to be a fisherman who is knowledgeable on his ways within the waters.
The drainpipe, which was difficult to spot and was filled with land mined that drifted from the North, should have been checked, the military said. It said that the pipe’s purpose is to avoid penetration with structures inside made to stop any forced ingress.
Since 2012, three defection cases which have passed unnoticed were recorded in the border, gathering criticisms over the alleged security shortcomings by the military.
As a response, the military pledged to boost border security before the year ends, after it witnessed the second border breach in the similar region in Goseong County, located in the Gangwon Province’ northernmost part.
A senior military officer also admitted that the military failed to check every time some questionable situation arises.
“We will hold those responsible for the breach,” the military stated.