Seoul: defectors may cross the border on rare occasions

Seoul, South Korea-The military said that the person who crossed the border from South Korea and entered North Korea on New Year’s Day was probably a defector. He slipped from the same heavily guarded border to another direction at the end of 2020 and settled in South Korea. on Monday.

On Saturday, South Korean surveillance equipment detected an unidentified person crossing the eastern border into North Korean territory. The military said that security cameras showed someone crawling over the barbed wire on the southern edge of the border earlier on Saturday.

On Monday, the Ministry of Defense said in a statement that it suspected an earlier North Korean defector was a cross-border and is working to confirm relevant information.

A ministry official stated that the statement refers to a former North Korean citizen who was arrested south of the border in November 2020. The man claimed to be a former gymnast and told investigators that he had crawled over the barbed wire and defected before being discovered by South Korea. The official said that the North Korean army requested anonymity, citing departmental regulations.

The official said that the appearance of the person detected by South Korean security cameras on Saturday matched the former defector.

The fate of this person is unclear.

South Korean Defense Ministry officials said that after crossing the border on Saturday, a South Korean thermal observation device spotted four people in the northern part of the border. This may indicate that three North Korean soldiers came to take the transiters away from the border.

South Korea requested North Korea to ensure the safety of the person through the military hotline communication channel. According to the South Korean Ministry of National Defense, North Korea responded that it had received information from South Korea, but did not elaborate on who crossed the border.

In September 2020, North Korea shot and killed a South Korean fishery official who was found floating on the coastal border of its waters. South Korea said that North Korean troops were ordered to shoot anyone who crossed the border illegally to prevent the coronavirus pandemic.

South Korean media reported that the former gymnast was working as a cleaner in South Korea and had financial difficulties. The Ministry of Defense declined to confirm these reports, but stated that preliminary investigations revealed that he did not engage in espionage or other suspicious activities in South Korea. The ministry did not speculate why he returned to the north.

According to South Korean government records, since the late 1990s, about 34,000 North Koreans have fled to South Korea for economic and political reasons, while only about 30 have returned to their homes in the past 10 years.

Observers say that these returnees may not be able to adapt to their new competitive capitalist life in South Korea, be burdened with huge debts, or be blackmailed by North Korean agents, threatening to harm their loved ones if they do not return.

Defections across the border are rare. Unlike its official name, the demilitarized zone, this 248-kilometer (155-mile) long and 4 kilometer (2.5-mile) wide border is guarded by mines, tank traps, and combat troops, and barbed wire fencing on both sides. The vast majority of North Korean defectors in South Korea are from China and Southeast Asian countries.

Saturday’s crossing point raised questions about South Korea’s security posture because the South Korean army did not notice the person’s entry into the demilitarized zone within a few hours, even though surveillance equipment detected the person. The military admitted that it had sent soldiers, but could not find the person before he crossed the border.

In recent years, when North Koreans unknowingly crossed the demilitarized zone, the South Korean military has faced similar criticisms, including those who knocked on the gates of South Korean military camps.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.

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