Seoul: A North Korean man defected to the South today, using a small wooden boat in a rare and risky crossing of the heavily patrolled maritime border in the Yellow Sea, military officials said.

The man expressed his desire to defect after landing on the frontline South Korean island of Baengnyeong Island, the South’s joint chiefs of staff (JCS) said.

“The man is under investigation by security authorities,” a JCS spokesman told AFP.

Yonhap news agency quoted an unnamed JCS officer as saying the ship was “half-submerged” by the time it reached the island.

North Korean fishing vessels often stray across the border to be seized by the South Korean coastguard, who either repatriate the crew or allow them to stay depending on their preference.

Intentional defections by individuals in small boats are rare and dangerous given the tensions along the disputed maritime boundary which has seen bloody clashes in the past.

Hundreds of North Koreans flee their isolated homeland each year.

Most cross into China and then to a third country such as Thailand before coming to the South.

(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

Free Press Journal