A North Korean defector stole a fishing boat and managed to sail across the de-facto maritime border back to the impoverished nation, skirting South Korean military presence on the tense Korean peninsula.

The 28-year-old crab fishermen, identified only as “Lee”, stole a 9-tonne fishing trawler on Yeonpyeong Island on Wednesday night and headed for the Northern Limit Line, in what appeared to be his fourth dash to the North, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

The trawler went undetected by the US and South Korean military supposedly on heightened alert following the North’s bellicose rhetoric that has ratcheted up tension on the peninsula, reports Chosun Ilbo.

An unidentified South Korean military official told Reuters the boat “managed to enter a blind spot” on the radar and had been spotted too late to be intercepted.

Lee, described by Yonhap as a “serial” defector, had been living in South Korea since 2007. It was not reported how he managed to defect so many times as well as avoid imprisonment in North Korea.