Police capture man suspected of illegal entry by boat
Police on Wednesday captured a Chinese man believed to be among the six people who entered Korea aboard a motorboat last week, according to Korea Coast Guard officials.
The suspect, aged in his 40s, was apprehended near Mokpo, South Jeolla, according to Korea’s Coast Guard. The whereabouts of the other five remain unknown amid an ongoing manhunt.
The Coast Guard added the man had previously been deported from Korea in 2015 after illegally residing in the country since 2011.
According to the captured man’s testimony, the six men departed from the city of Weihai in Shandong Province, eastern China, aboard a motorboat on the evening of May 20. They arrived on the coast of Taean County, South Chungcheong, the next day, and were transported to Mokpo in a van that was waiting for them in the area.
The 1.5-ton boat was discovered beached in Taean on Saturday. Items including clothes, bread, fishing equipment and life jackets were discovered aboard, along with fuel containers with extra gasoline.
Police carried out a coronavirus test on the captured suspect, but he tested negative.
“We are focusing our investigative efforts on capturing the other five illegal entrants,” said a Coast Guard spokesman. “They rode in the same car with [the captured man], but we are looking into whether they shared the same destination and why they went to Mokpo.”
Based on testimony that the vehicle was waiting for the stowaways upon their arrival, Coast Guard officials believe the men had help from someone within Korea, possibly a broker.
Footage of the six men disembarking from the vessel was captured on a surveillance camera on May 21, the day the suspect said they reached Korea's west coast.
The men moved from the beach where the boat was found to a nearby road via a small path in the woods, which police believe supports the theory that they were guided by an insider familiar with the area.
The rocky area on which the boat was found is not frequented by locals. It is located on property off-limits to civilians other than operators of nearby fish farms.
Police previously said they believed the men sailed across the Yellow Sea from China to Korea on the motorboat, a journey that is likely to have taken over 10 hours.
The Coast Guard and police have mounted a task force of 74 officers to track down the suspects and probe the details of their entry into Korea. Investigators are also examining the possibility the Chinese men may have smuggled illegal narcotics into the country.
BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [email@example.com]