Report: North Korean who crossed DMZ likely not a civilian

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Feb. 19 (UPI) — The North Korean man who was taken into South Korean custody after crossing into the DMZ claimed he was a railroad worker or engineer, but the statement is under scrutiny, according to a South Korean press report.

News network MBN reported Friday the man, who remains unidentified, made statements identifying himself as a civilian. The defector claimed he had swam for nearly six hours on a cold winter night to make it to the South.

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Sources in South Korea’s military tell a different story, however, according to the report.

“There is a high possibility the [defector] maneuvered himself to the coast by swimming, but only after initially crossing into the South using a wooden boat or float,” one military source said.

Other sources told MBN the man is more likely a soldier and deserter, and not a civilian, after an examination of the “contents of the investigation.” The defector “appears to have made a false statement in order to conceal his identity,” a South Korean military source said.

Yang Uk, an adjunct professor at South Korea’s Hannam University Graduate School of Defense Strategy, told MBN it would be “impossible” for anyone to swim for six hours in a wetsuit.

Surveillance footage taken in a coastal area of the Korean demilitarized zone is also raising questions about the defector’s initial actions after he reached the Civilian Control Line on the South’s side.

YTN reported Friday surveillance footage shows the man walked past a DMZ checkpoint box, where he could have surrendered and asked to be taken into custody. The defector was not taken into South Korean custody until 7:20 a.m., three hours after he was first seen in surveillance footage at about 4:20 a.m. Earlier this week, the South’s military chief apologized for the delayed response.