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North Korea soldier swims to South Korea and defects

By
Elizabeth Shim
More North Korean soldiers are defecting to the South, sometimes owing to a lack of food being supplied to the army, according to South Korean press reports. Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
More North Korean soldiers are defecting to the South, sometimes owing to a lack of food being supplied to the army, according to South Korean press reports. Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

June 19 (UPI) -- A North Korean soldier in his 20s defected to the South by swimming across the Han River estuary early Sunday.

Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff stated the soldier swam to the South Korean side around 2:15 a.m. on Sunday by swimming across a narrow area of the river, about 700 meters wide, local newspaper Donga Ilbo reported.

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The soldier used blocks of Styrofoam as floats for his back and shoulders to survive the dangerous swim, Seoul said.

South Korean troops of the 2nd Division of Seoul's marine corps identified the defector using thermal observation devices installed at the outposts facing the demilitarized zone.

When the South Korean side detected the soldier's presence in the waters, they took action to bring him in, the joint chiefs said.

The soldier also said, "Save me. I am defecting," according to the report.

South Korean authorities are investigating the motivation for the defection, and the route the soldier used to leave North Korea.

The soldier's escape follows another military defection at the border last Tuesday.

A North Korean soldier crossed the landmine-filled "middle sector" of the DMZ last week, according to Seoul's defense ministry.

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The soldier, also in his early 20s, defected after hearing South Korean loudspeaker broadcasts at the border, according to Seoul's military.

The soldier is reportedly underweight and said troops in North Korea are complaining because of a lack of food.

There is malnutrition in the country, a South Korean government official said, according to the Chosun Ilbo.

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