A North Korean man defected to a South Korean western border island on Thursday and was under investigation by authorities, Joint Chiefs of Staff officers said.
“An unarmed North Korean man presumed to be a civilian expressed his will to defect to South Korea early this morning near Baengnyeong Island,” a JCS officer said.
“He arrived on the shore of the island in a non-powered wooden boat, and told a Marine on guard duty there that he wanted to stay in the South,” he added.
The island is just south of the Northern Limit Line, the de-facto inter-Korean maritime border.
“A probe into him is under way by related authorities,” he said, noting that it is yet to be confirmed how he crossed the tensely-guarded sea border into the South.
Another officer said the defector has identified himself as a North Korean citizen, and exactly who he is has yet to be confirmed.
“The ship was half-submerged, and such a status caused the vessel to effectively shun being detected by our radar system,” he added.
Though Marines are stationed on the island, some of its coastal areas are left open without barbed-wire fences to allow for fishing by the residents.
Over the past several years, South Korea has seen a series of similar cases in the western border regions.
The latest incident was a North Korean man swimming across the border and reaching Gyodong Island in August 2013. In 2011, 21 North Koreans also sneaked into the South for defection.
In May, a fishing boat from the communist country went adrift in the East Sea, and three of the nine fishermen aboard remained here in accordance with their wishes. (Yonhap)