Thousands of North Korean defectors have made their way to the South, but it rarely goes in the opposite direction. So, news that South Korean troops at the border shot and killed a man trying to swim north across the Imjin River is unusual.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency reports that the unidentified man "tried to cross the Imjin River near the western border in Paju, north of Seoul, at around 2:23 p.m. Soldiers fired off warning shots and told him to return to the South. When he disobeyed the order and jumped into the river, an Army corporal shot him dead, military officials said."
The New York Times, quoting an unnamed official at the Defense Ministry in Seoul, said the man was wearing civilian clothes.
"We had to shoot to stop him," the official told the Times on condition of anonymity. "We retrieved his body, and we are trying to find out who he is and what was his motive."
" 'He jumped into the river and was holding onto the buoy at the time of shooting,' " a senior official of the Joint Chiefs was quoted by Yonhap as saying. 'A special team was formed to investigate the incident.' "
The border between North and South Korea is one of the most heavily guarded in the world, with miles of landmines and guard posts.
The last known case of a South Korean attempting to defect to the North occurred in 2009.
Although most North Korean defectors chose to do so across the Yalu River border with China, as the Times notes:
"Last September, a North Korean civilian defected by swimming across the Imjin and crawling through a military fence along the border west of Seoul. The next month, two North Korean soldiers defected, one of them after killing two of his officers. Last month, an unarmed North Korean defected to a South Korean island where the Imjin joins the Yellow Sea."