Man shot swimming to North Korea

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Man shot swimming to North Korea

A Korean man was shot dead yesterday as he tried to cross into North Korea by swimming across the Imjin River, South Korean military officials said.

He disobeyed orders from officers to return to the southern shore.

The 47-year-old man, identified by his surname Nam, was shot by a South Korean soldier around 2:23 p.m. as the man appeared to be defecting to the North via the river in Paju, Gyeonggi, bordering North Korea 8 to 9 kilometers (5 to 5.6 miles) west of the Panmunjom truce village.

He jumped into the Imjin five to six kilometers east of where the river reaches the Yellow Sea. He was wearing a homemade Styrofoam life preserver. He was shot before he reached the North Korean side of the river.

A military official said the man “did not comply with our Army’s official’s orders to return to the South.” The officer gave several warning shots.

The Imjin runs from the North to South through the demilitarized zone and was the site of a major battle during the 1950-53 Korean War. As a part of the civilian control zone, public access is restricted.

Military sources said he was deported from Japan in June and his passport has been taken away.

Nam’s motive for crossing to the North was not confirmed by the Army yet, and military officials said that the case is undergoing investigation.

In October 2009, a 30-year-old man succeeded in crossing the eastern part of the DMZ to defect to the North. It is the first time since 1990 that a civilian was shot to death while attempting to defect to the North.


BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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