On Tuesday, a wooden boat containing four unidentified individuals believed to be from North Korea crossed the maritime boundary on the eastern side of the Korean Peninsula, possibly indicating an attempt to seek asylum in South Korea. South Korean Coast Guard and military authorities safely intercepted the small boat, which was carrying these presumed North Koreans, in the waters east of Sokcho, a city located 151 kilometers northeast of Seoul.
This interception followed the detection of “unusual activity” near the de-facto maritime border known as the Northern Limit Line (NLL) during the early morning hours, as reported by the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).
Over 33,000 individuals from North Korea have escaped their home country to seek refuge in the democratic South, where they are eligible for citizenship and financial assistance following a thorough screening process conducted by intelligence agencies. While defections via sea are infrequent, the majority of defectors choose to escape North Korea by crossing the less fortified border into China, where they confront the possibility of being apprehended and forcibly returned to North Korea.
Coast Guard and military officials received a report from South Korean fishermen, who were operating in the waters off Sokcho, about an “unusual” boat sighting at approximately 7:10 a.m. As a result, military and intelligence authorities prepared to collaboratively examine the individuals to ascertain their precise reasons for crossing into South Korea.
A Unification Ministry Representative refrained from confirming whether these individuals intended to seek asylum in South Korea, emphasizing that an ongoing investigation is in progress. This incident marked the first instance in which a group of North Koreans attempted to defect to South Korea via the East Sea since November 2019.
The individuals will be subjected to a joint investigation by military and intelligence officials to determine the specific reason for entering South Korea.