An unnamed individual crossed the strongly fortified border into North Korea, according to the South Korean military on Sunday.
The individual had been observed by monitoring equipment near the Demilitarized Zone on the eastern side of the border, but had eluded arrest by South Korean military on Saturday night. According to Joint Chiefs of Staff personnel, surveillance subsequently discovered the guy crossing the border.
According to the police, South Korea sent a message to North Korea on Sunday morning to secure the person’s safety, but the North has not answered, citing department norms.
It was unclear if this was a rare example of a South Korean attempting to defect to the North, or if it was a North Korean who momentarily crossed South Korean territory before returning to the North for whatever reason.
North Korea fatally shot a South Korean fisheries employee who was found drifting in their seas along a poorly delineated maritime boundary in September 2020. According to South Korea, North Korean military have been ordered to kill anyone crossing the border illegally in order to defend against the coronavirus outbreak.
After a North Korean defector with COVID-19-like symptoms returned home earlier in 2020, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un placed a border city under strict lockdown. That defector’s fate, who had lived in South Korea, remains unknown.
North Korea said on Saturday that at a high-profile governing party conference last week, it had resolved to prioritize severe virus prohibitions.
The Demilitarized Zone, which separates the two Koreas, is the world’s most heavily armed border. Inside and around the 248-kilometer (155-mile) long, 4-kilometer (2.5-mile) wide DMZ, which is additionally defended by barbed wire walls, tank traps, and combat personnel on both sides, an estimated 2 million mines are strewn about.
Defecting via the DMZ is an uncommon occurrence. Both Koreas deployed agents and spies to each other’s territory over the DMZ during the Cold War, but no such events have been recorded in recent years.
Since the late 1990s, over 34,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea to escape poverty and political tyranny, with the great majority arriving via China and Southeast Asian nations.
Experts have questioned North Korea’s claim of a spotless record because it has yet to register any instances of the coronavirus.