Friday, September 30

Man who crossed into North Korea ‘defected to the South in 2020’ | South Korea


A man observed crossing the heavily fortified border from South Korea to North Korea last week is believed to be a North Korean who previously defected to the South in 2020 in the same area, the Seoul Defense Ministry said.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said they conducted a search operation after spotting the person on Saturday on the east side of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that separates the two countries.

“The authorities presume that the person is a North Korean defector and are in the process of verifying related facts,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement Monday.

Later, a ministry official told reporters they believed the man, who is in his 30s, arrived in the south in November 2020. “The pictures showed that he looked and dressed the same as the person who defected from the north in 2020, “the official said. .

Investigators are seeking to determine whether the movement over the weekend detected on the northern side of the border was that North Korean troops came to escort the man, but that at this time the South Korean government does not believe it to be a case of espionage, the official added.

South Korean media reported that the man had experience as a gymnast that helped him climb the hurdles, but the official said they could not confirm that.

The official said North Korea had acknowledged messages from the South on inter-Korean hotlines about the incident, but had not provided further details on the man’s fate.

The man’s border crossing, which is illegal in South Korea, came as North Korea continued the strict anti-coronavirus measures it has implemented since closing its borders in early 2020. It has not confirmed any infections.

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In September 2020, North Korea apologized after its troops shot dead a South Korean fisheries official who disappeared at sea and burned his remains, in what it said were anti-pandemic precautions.

Two months earlier, he declared a national emergency and sealed off a border town after a North Korean defector with reported Covid-19 symptoms crossed illegally from the south.

While thousands of North Koreans have settled in the south, DMZ crossings are rare, with most defectors making their way through China.

South Korean defections to North Korea via the DMZ are even rarer, with only a few recorded in recent years.

However, several recent incidents have raised concerns in South Korea over security breaches or delayed responses by troops guarding the border.

When the alleged defector entered from North Korea in 2020, he was not detained until 14 hours after crossing the border, prompting the South Korean military to promise to tighten security.

In Saturday’s case, the person’s presence near the border went unnoticed for nearly three hours after closed-circuit television cameras recorded the person climbing a fence and setting off alarms, the military said in a briefing. on Sunday.

South Korean troops launched a search operation after detecting the person at 9.20 p.m. local time, but were unable to stop his crossing north at around 10.40 p.m.

In June, South Korea announced that it would accelerate the acquisition of a rail-mounted robot and an AI-enabled audio and video system to increase security along the border.


www.theguardian.com

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