South Korea detains American man swimming near N. Korea border

A man was arrested Tuesday night at a river near the Korean Demilitarized Zone. He told investigators that he was trying to meet leader Kim Jong Un.

South Korean border guards arrested an American man who they believe was attempting to swim across the border into rival North Korea, a South Korean defense official said Wednesday.

The man was arrested Tuesday night at a river near the Korean Demilitarized Zone, part of a restricted military area, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity due to office policy. He said investigators are questioning the man about the purpose of his apparent attempt to enter North Korea but gave no further details.

Yonhap news agency, citing an unidentified government source, reported the man was in his late 20s or early 30s and told investigators that he tried to go to North Korea to meet leader Kim Jong Un. He was caught by South Korean marines while lying on the shore of the river after swimming north, the report said.

Last year, South Korean soldiers shot and killed a man with a South Korean passport who officials said ignored warnings to return the South after trying to go to North Korea via a river that runs through the border.

There have been occasional cases of Americans being arrested in North Korea after allegedly entering the country illegally from China, but an American trying to go to North Korea from South Korea is unusual.

On Sunday, Matthew Miller, a young American who entered legally but then tore up his visa, was sentenced to six years of hard labor on charges he illegally entered the country to commit espionage.

In 1996, American Evan C. Hunziker entered the North by swimming across the Yalu River, which marks the border with China. Hunziker, who apparently made the swim on a drunken dare, was accused of spying and detained for three months.

Hunziker, then 26, was eventually freed after negotiations involving a special U.S. envoy. The North Koreans wanted to slap Hunziker with a $100,000 criminal fine but eventually agreed on a $5,000 payment to settle a bill for a hotel where he was detained.

North Korea is currently holding three Americans and the country's Supreme Court on Sunday sentenced one of them to six years of hard labor for illegally entering the country to commit espionage.

The Korean Peninsula remains in a technical state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea to deter potential aggression from North Korea.

About 27,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea to avoid poverty and political suppression since the end of the Korean War. A few South Koreans have previously tried to defect to the impoverished, authoritarian country, but such cases are rare.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to South Korea detains American man swimming near N. Korea border
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today