July 31 (UPI) — South Korean surveillance cameras on Ganghwa Island captured footage seven times of an escaped defector swimming across the border, but authorities were never notified, according to South Korean press reports.
A South Korean military commander in charge of monitoring the inter-Korea border has been subsequently fired following the flight of a North Korean defector accused of sexual assault, South Korean television network JTBC reported Friday.
The footage from July 18 includes faint images of the defector, identified as a 24-year-old man with the surname Kim, arriving on North Korean shores and heading to a village in North Korea’s Kaepung county, according to the report.
Yonhap reported footage was captured seven times — five on military monitoring cameras and twice on thermal observation devices.
The voyage across more than three miles of land and river took about an hour and 14 minutes to complete, according to JTBC’s analysis. Kim began making his way to the North about 2 a.m., using a storm drain near Yeonmijeong pavilion, a cultural heritage site.
Recorded footage also show Kim entering the drain at about 2:34 a.m., taking only 10 minutes to come out of the other side of the tunnel-like structure.
Kim was also seen wearing a life jacket while making his way across the river. South Korean guards on duty may have been unable to identify the man because he was swimming across an area littered with logs and polystyrene waste, the report says.
South Korea may have been unaware of the flight until North Korean state media said Sunday a “runaway who went to the south three years ago” had been found and was believed to be a suspected COVID-19 patient.
Kim was wanted by police in the South Korean city of Gimpo on charges of sexual assault, but city police were slow to move on the case and Kim escaped before his arrest, according to local press reports.
Yonhap reported Friday the National Police Agency is to investigate the case and identify the officers in Gimpo responsible for the oversight.