Russian Sailors Rescue North Korean Man Lost at Sea for 10 Hours Who Cannot Explain How He Got There

Russian sailors working along its far eastern coast have rescued a North Korean man found floating on pieces of foamed plastic, who was too weak to explain how he ended up in the life-threatening situation, local media has reported.

According to Russian state news agency Tass, the man was discovered by sailors off the coast of the Primorsky region, home to the port of Vladivostok on the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea. The as-yet unidentified man was picked up in the Olga Bay, in the southwestern part of the region.

An unnamed government source inside the Federal Security Service's local department told Tass that "once all formalities are settled" the rescued man would be returned to North Korea. The source offered no information on how the man ended up in the water off the Russian coast.

However, Tass noted that Russian border guards reported on September 7 that some 500 foreign fishing vessels had sheltered in the bays off Primorsky to wait out an incoming storm. It is possible the North Korean man was working on one of the ships and was somehow lost overboard.

The Siberian Times said the man spent 10 hours in the water before being saved, remaining afloat using two small pieces of foam plastic. The newspaper reported that the Russian Kurilskoye Ozero boat came to the man's aid.

The Siberian Times shared a video of the rescue showing the visibly-exhausted man struggling towards the Russian vessel, which slowly maneuvered to pull up alongside him.

Wearing a jacket, shorts and no shoes, the castaway tried to swim towards a lifebuoy tossed towards him by sailors, but was pushed away by a wave. The man reached the lifebuoy in his second attempt, as crew members cheered and pulled him in using a rope.

Though he bore no visible injuries, the toll of 10 hours at sea was clear. The man was unable to explain his predicament, conveying only a few details or his ordeal using hand gestures.

NOrth Korea, russia, rescue, sea, fishing, boat
This file photo shows two North Korean fishermen on the Yalu river near the North Korean town of Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong, on September 4, 2017. Antiquated North Korean fishing vessels are often blown off course in the Sea of Japan. GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images/Getty

The Siberian Times said he was given a dry change of clothes and warm food, before being brought back to shore by the border patrol.

It is not unusual for North Korean fishing boats and their crew to wash up on the coastlines around the Sea of Japan. Each year, dozens of ships—some with live crews and others dead—are found on the Japanese coastline.

There have been cases of defectors using boats to escape the authoritarian country, but most of those who wash up are thought to be genuine fishermen who have gone astray, often because of the antiquated and poorly supplied vessels they use.

Wreckage from ships destroyed by storms is also regularly discovered along the coast.