North Korea
Dramatic Footage Shows the Moment North Korean Defector Escapes to the South Kim Won Jin/Getty Images

A 39-year-old North Korean defector, Zhu Xianjian, who boldly escaped from prison in northeast China, was recaptured Sunday after being on the run for 40 days.

Chinese police said that Zhu had been imprisoned in the city of Jilin after entering China from North Korea in 2013. Zhu was a North Korean coal miner who swam across a river to a Chinese village in Tumen, Jilin province. He was arrested later the same year and was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2014 for illegal border crossing, larceny and robbery, to be followed by his deportation.

His sentence was reduced twice due to his good behavior. He was just two years short of completing his sentence before staging an escape that went viral. Zhu was caught on camera using a rope to damage an electric fence, climbing and jumping off a high prison wall. Footage released by a state-run Beijing News showed Zhu on Oct. 18, during his escape to freedom.

The footage also showed prison guards attempting to chase Zhu. Authorities then offered more than $23,000 for his capture and later raised it to more than $100,000 for any information leading to his arrest. The search for Zhu also generated broad interest in Chinese social media.

On Sunday, Jilin police announced that Zhu had been recaptured at about 10 am local time. In a video of his arrest posted by the state-run Global Times, Zhu is seen being carried by police officers on a dock while limping. Images from Jilin local TV stations also showed Zhu looking pale and emaciated as he lay on the ground with his hands cuffed behind his back. He could also be heard wailing as he was being transported into a car. Zhu is believed to have been shot in one leg and sent to the hospital for treatment.

According to state media, the police mistakenly arrested another man, who bore a resemblance to Zhu, five times over three days during their search for him.

The court records stated that aside from crossing a river separating North Korea from China in 2013, he raided several houses in a nearby village, stealing money, mobile phones and clothes. Zhu also stabbed an elderly woman who discovered his identity.

Zhu had served a total of nine years of his prison sentence. Some people speculated that his escape was to avoid his future release and deportation back to North Korea. According to Human Rights Watch, North Korean defectors who are sent back to their country can face serious consequences, including torture and sexual abuse.

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Female North Korean soldiers on patrol in a town near the Chinese border. Reuters

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