North Korea Defector Captured After Being on the Run for 40 Days

A North Korean man has been re-captured after evading authorities for 40 days after a dramatic escape from a Chinese prison.

The 39-year-old man, known by his Chinese name Zhu Xianjian, was jailed in the Jilin province in north-eastern China after fleeing North Korea in 2003.

Jilin police said in a statement that Zhu had been detained at around 10 a.m. local time on Sunday morning, without providing anymore details.

According to a statement from the public security bureau of Jilin city, the escapee was caught by local police in Fengman district and local residents said Zhu had hidden in a local abandoned tourist attraction, the state-run Chinese outlet Global Times reported on Sunday.

Online video footage shows a man believed to be Zhu being carried away by four police officers. Local residents told Global Times that some of their household belongings had been stolen, and had been reported to local police. A Jilin City police officer told the Global Times that they had kept receiving reports about Zhu from locals.

Zhu escaped the prison complex in Jilin City on October 18, by climbing on a shed and vaulting the outer wall. The bold escape was captured on a surveillance video posted on Chinese social media by a number of state media outlets.

He illegally swam across a river separating North Korea from China in 2013, before raiding several houses in a nearby village, stealing money, mobile phones and clothes, court records show.

In 2014, the fugitive was sentenced to 11 years in prison for illegal entry into China, as well as larceny and robbery with intent to cause serious injury. He was due to be released and deported back to North Korea in 2023.

Zhu also stabbed an elderly woman who discovered him, and tried to flee in a taxi before being arrested.

"I took out a knife tied to my waist and stabbed the granny in the back. Then I noticed she was carrying a satchel. I tried to yank it off her but she wouldn't let go, so I stabbed her a few times more," Zhu said in court, according to the court documents, CNN reported.

Chinese authorities in October issued a bounty notice for the capture of the North Korean defector, offering equivalent to $23,400 if he was caught alive. Authorities later increased the reward for information directly leading to his capture to 700,000 yuan ($109,000).

At least 1,100 North Koreans were detained in China, Pyongyang's main ally, according to a July report by Human Rights Watch.

China sees defectors as illegal migrants rather as potential asylum seekers, meaning that they are dealt with as criminals and could face prison.

Prison break stock image
A stock image of someone escaping prison. A North Korean man has been re-captured after evading authorities for 40 days after a dramatic escape from a Chinese prison. Getty