Former North Korean Gymnast Leaps Over Fence to Escape to South Korea, Authorities Say

South Korean troops patrol the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
South Korean troops patrol the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).(Getty)

Authorities had the unnamed man jump twice after he was taken to custody as proof that leaping over a fence in the Demilitarized Zone was possible.

A former North Korean gymnast leaned on his talent as an athlete to defect from the Hermit Kingdom. The unnamed man in his late 20s somehow jumped nearly 10 feet over a fence along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) last month, then evaded arrest under the noses of North Korean troops for more than 14 hours before arriving in South Korea.

To make sure the defector wasn’t lying, Seoul’s defense authorities asked him after he was taken into custody to jump twice as proof that jumping over the tall fence was possible. 

Authorities later said that his gymnastics skills as well as small build might have helped him escape, the Korea Herald reported.

However, it is unclear why the sensors on the fence didn’t trigger an alarm, or how the former gymnast also successfully evaded possible landmines and detection from troops stationed along the buffer zone separating the countries.

According to South Korea’s Ministry of Unification, an organization that helps North Korean defectors adjust to life in the South, more than 33,000 North Koreans defected to South Korea between 1948 and December 2019.