An American who was believed to be attempting to swim across a river to rival North Korea, has bee arrested by South Korean border guards, a defence official said.
The man was apprehended Tuesday night while lying on a bank of the Han River in a restricted military area near the border, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to office policy.
The man, who confirmed security operatives’ suspicion told investigators that he tried to go to North Korea to meet leader Kim Jong-un, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported, citing an unidentified government source.
The agency added that the man believed to be aged around 29, is a computer repairer from Texas, USA, who arrived South Korea 10 days ago.
South Korea’s Defence Ministry and the National Intelligence Service however said they couldn’t confirm the report.
Americans are occasionally arrested after entering North Korea illegally from China, but a US citizen trying to get in to the country from South Korea is unusual.
About 27,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea to avoid poverty and political suppression since the end of the Korean War.
Some South Koreans have attempted to defect to the impoverished, authoritarian North, but such cases are rare.
Last year, South Korean soldiers shot and killed a man with a South Korean passport who officials said ignored warnings while swimming across the Imjin River toward North Korea.
Some Americans recently detained in North Korea include missionaries aiming to spread the gospel or draw attention to human rights abuses.
Korean-American missionary Robert Park in 2009 defiantly walked into North Korea from China, calling for the dismantling of the North’s prison camps.
Mr Park, who was deported from North Korea in February 2010, said he was tortured by interrogators.
North Korea is currently holding three Americans. The country’s Supreme Court sentenced one of them, Matthew Miller, on Sunday to six years of hard labour after finding him guilty of illegally entering the country to commit espionage.