S. Korea detains US man in waters near border

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South Korea Arrests U.S. Citizen Swimming to North Korea

BY HYUNG-JIN KIM

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- South Korean border guards arrested an American man who they believe was attempting to swim across a river to rival North Korea, a South Korean defense official said Wednesday.

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 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. It said the man, aged around 29, is a computer repairman from Texas who came to South Korea 10 days ago.

South Korea's Defense Ministry and the National Intelligence Service said they couldn't confirm the report.

Americans are occasionally arrested after entering North Korea illegally from China, but a U.S. citizen trying to get in from South Korea is unusual.

In the 1960s, several U.S. soldiers walked into North Korea while on a patrol near the mine-strewn Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ. Those army deserters later appeared in North Korean propaganda films and taught English there.

10 PHOTOS
Han River
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S. Korea detains US man in waters near border
South Korean police officers jump into the Han river to patrol for possible terrorists' attacks for upcoming G20 Summit near its venue in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2010. South Korea's navy fired warning shots to chase away a North Korean fishing boat that crossed their disputed sea border early Wednesday, the Defense Ministry said, in the latest flareup of tension on the divided peninsula just days before the Group of 20 summit in Seoul. (AP Photo/ Lee Jin-man)
South Korean army soldiers stand guard at a military check point at the Imjingak Pavilion near the border village of Panmunjom, which has separated the two Koreas since the Korean War, in Paju, South Korea, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014. South Korean border guards arrested an American man who they believe was attempting to swim across a river into rival North Korea, a South Korean defense official said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
South Korean army soldiers patrol through the military wire fences with hanging South Korean national flags at the Imjingak Pavilion near the border village of Panmunjom, which has separated the two Koreas since the Korean War, in Paju, South Korea, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014. South Korean border guards arrested an American man who they believe was attempting to swim across a river into rival North Korea, a South Korean defense official said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
South Korean army soldiers stand guard at a military check point in Paju near the border with North Korea, South Korea, Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014. North Korea on Saturday continued its string of rocket and missile firings, launching three short-range projectiles into the waters off its east coast ahead of a major holiday celebrated by both Koreas, a South Korean defense official said.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
South Korean soldiers patrol along a military fence near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) dividing the two Koreas in the border city of Paju on April 26, 2013. South Korea called on April 26 for the withdrawal of all remaining staff from its joint industrial complex with North Korea, after Pyongyang shunned an offer for talks on the zone's future. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
South Korean soldiers patrol along a military fence near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) dividing the two Koreas in the border city of Paju on April 26, 2013. South Korea called on April 26 for the withdrawal of all remaining staff from its joint industrial complex with North Korea, after Pyongyang shunned an offer for talks on the zone's future. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
South Korean soldiers patrol along a military fence near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) dividing the two Koreas in the border city of Paju on April 26, 2013. South Korea called on April 26 for the withdrawal of all remaining staff from its joint industrial complex with North Korea, after Pyongyang shunned an offer for talks on the zone's future. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
South Korean soldiers patrol along a military fence near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) dividing the two Koreas in the border city of Paju on April 26, 2013. South Korea called on April 26 for the withdrawal of all remaining staff from its joint industrial complex with North Korea, after Pyongyang shunned an offer for talks on the zone's future. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
South Korean soldiers patrol along a military fence near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) dividing the two Koreas in the border city of Paju on April 16, 2013. North Korea's military on April 16 threatened the South with imminent 'sledge-hammer' retaliation unless Seoul apologised for anti-Pyongyang protestors burning effigies of if ts revered leaders. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
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In 1996, American Evan C. Hunziker entered North Korea by swimming across the Yalu River that marks the Chinese border. Hunziker, who apparently made the swim on a drunken dare, was accused of spying and detained for three months.

Hunziker, 26 at the time, 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. He killed himself about one month after his release.

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. On Christmas Day in 2009, Korean-American missionary Robert Park defiantly walked into North Korea from China calling for the dismantling of the North's prison camps. 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 labor after finding him guilty of illegally entering the country to commit espionage. North Korea says Miller tore up his tourist visa upon arrival at Pyongyang's airport in April.

The Korean Peninsula remains technically at 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.

Photos show one section of Han River, the body of water that the Texas man was discovered lying on the bank of:

13 PHOTOS
Han River
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S. Korea detains US man in waters near border
A couple sits beneath a road bridge before the Han river at sunset in Seoul on August 1, 2014. South Korea's state weather agency issued a heat wave warning for Seoul for the first time this year, advising people to stay indoors. Heat wave warnings are issued when the daytime high is expected to stay above 35 C (95F) for two or more consecutive days, according to state media. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
In a photo taken on September 1, 2014, two women shelter from the rain as they walk in a park along the Han river in Seoul. Following a hot, humid rainy season, autumn typically arrives in South Korea from September, lasting until November. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
A girl wearing rollerblades stands on steps before the Han river and the Namsan tower (top C) in Seoul at dusk on August 1, 2014. South Korea's state weather agency issued a heat wave warning for Seoul for the first time this year, advising people to stay indoors. Heat wave warnings are issued when the daytime high is expected to stay above 35 C (95F) for two or more consecutive days, according to state media. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
A man and child sit beneath a bridge spanning the Han river, during the Chuseok holiday period in Seoul on September 10, 2014. During the Chuseok holiday many South Koreans return to their hometowns to celebrate the harvest season with their families. According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, a total of 39.45 million travellers are expected to be on the move during the holiday period. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
A fisherman reaches for his rod as he responds to a bite, beside the Han river during the Chuseok holiday period, in Seoul on September 10, 2014. During the Chuseok holiday many South Koreans return to their hometowns to celebrate the harvest season with their families. According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, a total of 39.45 million travellers are expected to be on the move during the holiday period. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
A man sits before the Han river in Seoul on August 1, 2014. South Korea's state weather agency issued a heat wave warning for Seoul for the first time this year, advising people to stay indoors. Heat wave warnings are issued when the daytime high is expected to stay above 35 C (95F) for two or more consecutive days, according to state media. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
A family sits beneath a road bridge before the Han river at sunset in Seoul on August 1, 2014. South Korea's state weather agency issued a heat wave warning for Seoul for the first time this year, advising people to stay indoors. Heat wave warnings are issued when the daytime high is expected to stay above 35 C (95F) for two or more consecutive days, according to state media. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
A family sits before the Han river in Seoul at dusk on August 1, 2014. South Korea's state weather agency issued a heat wave warning for Seoul for the first time this year, advising people to stay indoors. Heat wave warnings are issued when the daytime high is expected to stay above 35 C (95F) for two or more consecutive days, according to state media. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
In this photograph taken on May 31, 2014, young couples stand before the Han river and Seoul city skyline. South Korea's industrial output growth slowed in April from the previous month, due to punitive actions against mobile carriers and a slump in consumer demand, government data showed May 30. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman lies in an inflatable boat as another takes a photo, on the Han river in Seoul on June 4, 2014. South Korea's inflation rate rose at the fastest pace for more than a year in May, on the back of higher utility costs, state data showed June 3, 2014. AFP PHOTO . Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
A child jumps across a waterway before the Han river in Seoul on April 7, 2014. Spring time in South Korea typically lasts from April to June, and features mild temperatures with blossoms spreading north across the country. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
A couple kiss before the Han river in Seoul on April 7, 2014. Spring time in South Korea typically lasts from April to June, and features mild temperatures with blossoms spreading north across the country. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
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