How a gymnast happened to move to North Korea after defecting to the South

Talk about double risk.

That’s one thing for a young person North Korea The man jumped over the high barbed wire fence of the heavily guarded demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas and defected to the South. And it’s a whole other thing to do it the other way around.

This Saturday, according to shy South Korea the officials, the unidentified man, believed to be in his 30s, defected again. That is, he crossed the fence four kilometers wide DMZ and back to North Korea. After defecting back to the South in November 2020, he apparently decided he didn’t like his lowly job for a cleaning service in the South and wanted to return home the way he did. arrive.

Considering the height of the fence, the man had to climb up and over the coiled rope above or perform a jog or even pole vault. During interrogation after his first defection to the South, he is said to have described himself as a North Korean gymnast – light, slim and in good shape. His success in going above and beyond barriers, not once but twice shows that he is strong enough to dare to cross from North to South and back again.

The incident left South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense wondering how the man was able to easily escape detection by surveillance equipment south of the demarcation line. And how was he then able to cross and around the minefields and escape the South Korean army that was scrutinizing any sign of movement in the ravines and valleys at the eastern end of the DMZ. , the scene of some of the bloodiest battles of the Korean War?

While interrogating the South Korean military officers responsible for that desolate grassland area, an unnamed South Korean official denied speculation that he was a man in a black robe of the South Korean military or is a North Korean spy. The official told South Korean journalists that the man was “recognized to resemble a defector” after reviewing Police surveillance glimpse of his movements.

“I think that could be a fatal mistake for the fugitive.”

The man’s success in evading detection as he infiltrated the DMZ and then crossed the line into the North classed him as one of a kind. “Never heard of someone going both ways through the DMZ since the war except for spies/spies,” said Steve Tharp, who made a career spying on North Korea as an officer. military and civilian officials of the US Command, told The Daily Beast. “If he’s not an agent, it’s got to be the first.”

North Korean defectors are not unusual, many of them face discrimination, loneliness and near poverty in the South, regretting leaving the North, but until Only about 30 of the 33,000 people who made it to the South have since returned.

The majority of defectors escaped from Korea by crossing the Yalu or Tumen rivers into China, evading capture by the Chinese, who would return them to their cruel fates in Korea. Tien, and make your way to Mongolia or to Thailand, Laos, or Vietnam. Re defectors, as they are sometimes called, often return via China.

Some of those who have chosen to return have appeared on North Korean television saying how bad life is in the South, how much they want to return to their families and of course, how grateful they are to the North Korean leader. How is Tien Kim Jong Un? for the benefits and privileges of living in the North. For this man, however, the immediate challenge after he crossed the line was to avoid being shot in the eye by North Korean soldiers digging close to the side of their DMZ.

North Korea admitted to receiving messages from the South asking about the man, but did not say whether he was rescued alive or dead. However, the chances of survival are not good.

“I think it could be a fatal mistake for defectors because the KPA (Korean People’s Army) does not accept defectors due to concerns about COVID19,” Tharp told the Daily Beast. “I assume the fugitive is dead and either burned or otherwise disposed of.”

Tharp suspects North Korea has admitted to killing him, as in the case of a South Korean fisheries official who was shot and killed while floating in the Yellow Sea in September 2020.

Miraculously, however, this supposed gymnast has been able to knit around the mines south of the DMZ since the Korean War ended with an armistice in July 1953. .

David Maxwell, a retired US Army colonel, said: “There are a lot of unexplored landmines over the decades. “It is very dangerous to walk in the DMZ. It’s not like in the movies and someone provides hand sketches to follow at night.”

Maxwell, who has done five tours of South Korea in special forces, told The Daily Beast, “Known and marked minefields can be avoided if you have the knowledge and experience.” but emphasized, “Many unmarked minefields make it very dangerous.”

But how can men get past the Koreans right below their DMZ?

“The main problem is lax discipline, especially under this regime.”

Maxwell, now with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said: “The incident was not in the DMZ. “It is at the South Barrier Reef (SBF) on the southern edge of the DMZ. There must be a breakdown in observation, patrol, and a high SBF to allow this person to enter the DMZ. ”

The problem can be related to both politics and technology. The government of Liberal South Korean President Moon Jae-in, which is seeking dialogue with North Korea, “may be reluctant to appear too aggressive,” Maxwell said. “They rely on technology that has proven time and time again to be inadequate whether it’s the DMZ or the borders of any country.”

And, he said, “Once inside the DMZ, there’s no fence two kilometers south of the military demarcation line until you get to the north’s territory.” The man got over the barricade, “could get through the DMZ and luckily he didn’t step on mines anywhere because there are a lot of mines in the DMZ.”

Politics is clearly an important factor, says Shim Jae-hoon, who has been analyzing North Korea as a journalist for many years.

“The main problem is lax discipline, especially under this regime,” Shim said. “Remember: this happened during the New Year holidays. The company captain in charge seems to have loosened security. Such lapses are rare under the leadership of a conservative government.” How a gymnast happened to move to North Korea after defecting to the South


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