A South Korean man with an alleged history of attempted defections to North Korea was arrested Thursday, according to local press reports. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo
June 18 (UPI) -- A South Korean man was arrested after stealing a boat and attempting to flee to North Korea.
The man, in his 40s, was taken into custody Thursday after he tried to flee on the stolen boat, but ended up drifting into a nearby area, YTN and JoongAng Ilbo reported Friday.
Kim Jin-soo, the owner of the boat, told YTN that he found his boat had disappeared about 4:15 a.m. Thursday and reported it to the Coast Guard.
The suspect may have zeroed in on Kim's boat because he saw that the owner had left the key in the ignition.
Kim said that the boat had run out of fuel and decided to leave the key on the vessel.
After discovering that the boat could not be turned on, the suspect untied it from the dock and was quickly swept away by currents, the report said.
The man was found stranded not far from a South Korean naval base near the island of Baengnyeongdo in Incheon, on the western coast of the peninsula.
The suspect told the coast guard that he began to work on his escape the night before his arrest.
A source familiar with the suspect reportedly told JoongAng Ilbo that the suspect has a "history of attempting to defect to North Korea."
The man previously tried to escape to the North from the city of Paju, the report said.
Last year, the Coast Guard initially claimed a South Korean fisheries officer voluntarily fled to North Korea by swimming across the border.
The South Korean fisheries ministry officer who disappeared on Sept. 21 was shot in the North, authorities have said. The man may have also been burned because of draconian North Korean measures against COVID-19.