UTSUNOMIYA, Tochigi Pref. – A former North Korean soldier who sought asylum in Japan in 1983 has been arrested for allegedly groping a teenage girl in Tochigi Prefecture in April, police said Friday.
The 16-year-old girl spotted the suspect, 40-year-old Min Hong Gu, on Thursday evening at a department store in Utsunomiya. After she alerted police, officers arrested the man on suspicion of groping the girl at another department store in the city April 25.
Min, who is now a South Korean national, has denied the allegations, police said.
The government awarded Min special residency status in 1988 after he entered Japan in October 1983 as a stowaway aboard the Japanese freighter Fujisan Maru No. 18, which was traveling between Japan and North Korea.
In November 1983, Pyongyang arrested five of the freighter’s crew members, all Japanese nationals, for alleged espionage activities after the vessel made a port call in Nampo.
Although North Korea released three of the crew members in 1984, the other two were not released until 1990.