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Two civilians from North cross border via boat

May 21,2018
Two North Korean civilians defected to the South through the Northern Limit Line, an inter-Korean sea border, on a small vessel at dusk on Saturday, according to a government official.

It was initially reported that one of the defectors was a North Korean military officer, but government officials have since confirmed that he is in fact a civilian.

The defectors, confirmed to be in their 40s, were sighted by the South Korean Navy in the waters north of South Korea’s Baengnyeong Island in Incheon at 3:30 a.m. while soldiers were keeping guard. When the Navy sent out a patrol vessel to retrieve them, one of the civilians claimed he was a North Korean lieutenant commander, according to the Navy.

The two were taken to Seoul at around 11:30 a.m. that day to be investigated by South Korean authorities.

“It is possible that the defector [who lied about his identity] was a high-ranking military officer in the past or was a civilian worker in the military,” said one government source investigating the defectors’ motives and identities.

Since 2000, there have been 13 other cases of North Koreans defecting through the sea border.

Every year, about 1,000 to 2,000 North Koreans defect to the South. They totaled 31,267 in 2017, according to the South’s Ministry of Unification.

BY BAE JAE-SUNG, LAURA SONG [song.hankyul@joongang.co.kr]