Seoul, Oct 24 (EFE).- South Korean authorities on Tuesday intercepted four people in a boat from North Korea who expressed their intent to defect from the secretive country, according to Seoul.
The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) confirmed in a statement that it had been tracking a “small wooden boat” in the Sea of Japan near the Northern Limit Line (NLL) and that it had been “secured” by the coast guard and Navy east of the port city of Sokcho, about 150 kilometers northeast of Seoul.
The NLL divides the territorial waters of the two neighbors, which are technically still at war.
On the boat were four unidentified people who “expressed their intent to defect,” according to a South Korean government source cited by Yonhap news agency.
The South Korean military and intelligence service are expected to interrogate them in the coming hours.
Although North Koreans rarely choose to flee to the South across the heavily militarized land and sea borders, some occasionally manage to cross the NLL by boat.
The most common escape method is to cross on foot or swim across rivers into China and from there they try to reach a third country – usually Thailand – to request asylum at one of the South Korean embassies or consulates to be sent to that country, something that cannot be done in the South Korean legations on Chinese soil.
However, the strengthening of border security by the North Korean regime due to the pandemic and the increasingly sophisticated methods used to detect the presence of North Koreans on its territory by the Chinese authorities, who deport them if they are found, have greatly reduced the number of arrivals to the South.
In 2019, just over 1,000 arrived in South Korea, while in 2022 only 59 did so.
This year’s partial figures show a slight rebound, since in the first six months of 2023, 99 North Koreans entered the country, five times more than in the same period last year. EFE