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Escape to North Korea: Defector at heart of COVID-19 case fled sex abuse investigation


REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won

Last week, a 24-year-old defector returned to North Korea the way he left in 2017, authorities say, but with a coronavirus pandemic raging in the background this time, his illicit trip drew far more attention.


South Korea has identified the man only by his surname, Kim, and said he was the “runaway” who North Korea accuses of illegally crossing their shared border last week with symptoms of COVID-19.


Facing a sexual assault investigation, Kim evaded high-tech South Korean border control systems by crawling through a drain pipe and swimming across the Han River to the North on July 19, the South Korean military has said. He appears to have spent several days there before being caught.


South Korean military chief Park Han-ki told parliament on Tuesday that Kim, who is 163 cm (5.35 ft) tall and weighs 54 kg (119 lb), cut his way through barbed wire fences installed at the end of the pipe leading to the river.


A Seoul official told Reuters that Kim is believed to have taken a similar path when he defected to the South in 2017, and authorities say he scoped out the area earlier in July, apparently in preparation.


28 July 2020

News Source Reuters

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