Nov. 23 (UPI) -- The North Korean man who defected across barbed wire fences of the demilitarized zone this month is a former gymnast, according to a South Korean press report.
Donga Ilbo reported Monday that the defector, who is in his late 20s and remains unidentified, is an athlete who swung over barricades in the DMZ without coming under the immediate attention of authorities.
South Korea's military came under fire in early November for not taking the man into custody more promptly. The defector may have jumped over a barbed-wire fence and is believed to have brushed up against fence sensors that were not triggered. The incident remains under investigation.
North Koreans rarely escape their country across the DMZ, which is strewn with landmines to deter enemies on both sides. To make it to the South, the defector had to climb up a 3-meter fence.
On Nov. 4, the man, who surrendered in an area about 1 mile from the fence in blue civilian clothes, stated his desire to seek asylum, according to South Korean authorities.
The North Korean man was captured on thermal cameras twice as early as Nov. 2, at 10:14 a.m. and 10:22 a.m., "loitering" around the military demarcation line, before being taken into custody. Authorities have said the area is a "blind spot," according to Yonhap on Nov. 4.
The United States and South Korea have sought talks with the North, but silence from Pyongyang amid the coronavirus pandemic has created a diplomatic impasse.
President Donald Trump's national security adviser, Robert O'Brien, said Monday during a visit to the Philippines the president's diplomacy has worked, referring to the long pause in North Korea ballistic missile and nuclear tests, Yonhap reported Monday.
"We think that personal diplomacy between President Trump and Chairman Kim has led to that result," O'Brien said.