June 21 (UPI) — The South Korean man who attempted to defect to North Korea by boat had his mobile phone seized and his home searched, according to local press reports.
South Korea’s Incheon Coast Guard said Monday that the man is under investigation after he allegedly stole a motorboat in the city’s Baengnyeong Island last week, Yonhap and News 1 reported.
The suspect is being charged with theft and attempting an escape from the South, which violates the nation’s National Security Law.
The man, in his 40s, worked for a water purifier sales company until three months ago. He was unemployed at the time of the incident, authorities said.
The suspect previously tried to flee to the North from other areas near the border, including twice at the truce village of Panmunjom, which remains heavily guarded on both sides.
The man was jailed after one of the incidents but released. After a second attempt he underwent police investigations in the city of Ilsan. Reports did not indicate when the defections were attempted or disclose the length of his prison sentence.
The suspect, a resident of Incheon, took a ferry to Baengnyeong Island on Wednesday from the Incheon Port Coastal Passenger Terminal ahead of his third attempt.
A South Korean Coast Guard source told Yonhap no indication existed that the man had visited the island in advance to plan a defection to North Korea.
The suspect has admitted to plans to defect, but has not provided an explanation for motivation, reports said.
The Coast Guard also confirmed the man stole the 1.3-ton motorboat about 11 p.m. Wednesday.
Kim Jin-soo, the boat owner, had said he found his boat had disappeared about 4:15 a.m. Thursday.
Kim said he had left the key in the ignition because the vessel had run out of fuel. The boat and suspect were found in a nearby area not far from a South Korean naval base, according to reports.