June 19 (UPI) -- South Korea's defense ministry came under criticism on Wednesday following revelations a North Korean fishing boat sailed in the South's territorial waters for 57 hours before being apprehended.
The North Korean crew even approached a South Korean citizen on the beach and asked to borrow a mobile phone, according to Newsis and News 1.
The North Korean boat, carrying four fishermen, ended in two repatriations and two defections.
Before the boat was detained on Saturday, the crew had traveled across South Korean waters without permission for three days. Neither the South's coast guard nor military took action, until a civilian reported the boat via a state emergency hotline.
The civilian called the emergency number after encountering the four North Koreans along the coast. One of them was reportedly wearing a communist-style suit.
According to the South Korean eyewitness, the crew said they "came from North Korea." One crew member, who remains unidentified, requested to borrow a phone so he could speak to his aunt who "lives in Seoul."
There are now more than 32,000 defectors resettled in South Korea. Their number has grown steadily despite a crackdown against outward-bound migration in the North.
South Korea's military said Wednesday the situation is being "carefully reviewed" and those who did not properly carry out duties are to be "held responsible."
The incident has triggered a strong response from South Korea's main opposition conservatives, who are calling for the resignation of Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo.
"The security of [South] Korea is not being defended by the military. Fishermen are defending the country," said conservative lawmaker Na Kyung-won on Wednesday.
The boat originated from North Hamgyong Province and freely traveled in waters between South Korea's port city of Samcheok and Ulleungdo, an island off the eastern coast.
Moon Geun-shik, an analyst and head of the Korea Defense and Security Forum, said the boat might have gone undetected because it turned off its lights at night, according to News 1.