South Korea says person who crossed DMZ north was likely defector

A person who crossed the border from South Korea north on New Years Day was likely a defector who had crossed the same heavily fortified border in the other direction to settle in South Korea in 2020, announced. Monday the army.

South Korean surveillance equipment on Saturday detected an unidentified person entering North Korean territory from the eastern part of the border.

The military said a security camera showed a person earlier on Saturday crawling over a barbed wire fence along the southern edge of the border.

The South Korean Defense Ministry said in a statement on Monday that it suspected a North Korean defector was the border smuggler and was trying to confirm related information.

* North Korea and South Korea exchange gunfire at border
* ‘Object’ flying over Korea DMZ was a flock of birds
* South Korea fires 20 warning shots after failure of North Korean soldier
* North Korean soldier shot dead during defection

A ministry official said the statement referred to a former North Korean citizen who was captured south of the border in November 2020.

The man identified himself as a former gymnast and told investigators he crawled over barbed wire fences to defect before being found by South Korean troops, the official said, asking anonymity by citing the rules of the department.

The official said the appearance of the person detected by the South Korean security camera on Saturday matched that of the former defector. The person’s fate is not known.

A South Korean thermal observation device detected four people in the northern part of the border after crossing the border on Saturday, the Defense Ministry official said. This could suggest that three North Korean soldiers came to move the border post away from the border.

Military guard posts from North Korea in the rear and South Korea in the front can be seen in the Paju border region.

Ahn Young-joon / AP

Military guard posts from North Korea in the rear and South Korea in the front can be seen in the Paju border region.

South Korea has asked North Korea to ensure the safety of the person through a military helpline communications channel. North Korea responded that it had received the South Korean messages but had not given details of the border crossing, according to the South Korean Defense Ministry.

In September 2020, North Korea shot dead a South Korean fisheries official found floating in its waters along a maritime border. South Korea has said North Korean troops have been ordered to shoot anyone crossing the border illegally to protect themselves from the coronavirus pandemic.

South Korean media reported that the former defector gymnast worked as a cleaner in South Korea and was struggling economically. The Defense Ministry declined to confirm the information, but said an initial investigation showed he was not engaged in espionage or other suspicious activity in South Korea. The ministry did not speculate on the reasons for his return to the North.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Korean Central News Agency / Korean News Service via AP

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

About 34,000 North Koreans have fled to South Korea for economic and political reasons since the late 1990s, and only 30 have returned home in the past 10 years, according to South Korean government records.

Observers say these returnees likely failed to adjust to their new, highly competitive and capitalist life in South Korea, had large debts, or were blackmailed by North Korean agents who threatened to harm. to their loved ones if they did not return.

Defections by the border are rare. Contrary to its official name, the Demilitarized Zone, the 248 km long and 4 km wide border is guarded by landmines, tank traps and combat troops on both sides as well as barbed wire fences. A large majority of North Korean defectors in South Korea have come via China and countries in Southeast Asia.

Saturday’s border crossing raised questions about South Korea’s security posture, as the person’s entry into the DMZ was not noticed by South Korean troops for a few hours, although the surveillance equipment has detected the person. The military admitted to sending soldiers but failed to locate the person before they crossed the border.

In recent years, the South Korean military has faced similar criticism when North Koreans walked through DMZ areas unnoticed, including one knocking on the door of a South Army barracks. -Korean.

Comments are closed.