South Korean attempts rare defection to the North

Defector flees INTO North Korea from the South in rare case of intruder fleeing over the heavily guarded border to communist country

  • South Korea had earlier spotted the person with surveillance equipment
  • They then sent a message to North Korea to ensure the safety of the person
  • The border crossing came as North Korea carries out strict covid measures

A South Korean has attempted a rare defection to the North despite Kim Jong Un’s military having a policy of shooting on sight anyone crossing the border.

South Korea had earlier spotted the person with surveillance equipment at the eastern portion of the border and sent troops to capture him or her on Saturday at 9.20pm. 

But the troops failed to find the person and the surveillance equipment detected them crossing over the border, Joint Chiefs of Staff officers said.

‘We’ve confirmed that the person crossed the Military Demarcation Line border about 10.40pm and defected to the North,’ the JCS said.

Military guard posts of North Korea, rear, and South Korea, front, are seen in Paju, near the border

South Korea sent a message to North Korea on Sunday morning to ensure the safety of the person, but the North hasn’t responded, the officers said requesting anonymity citing department rules.

It was unclear if this was a rare case of a South Korean hoping to defect to the North, or it could be a North Korean who briefly entered the South Korean territory for some reason before returning to the North.

The border crossing, which is illegal in South Korea, came as North Korea carries out strict anti-coronavirus measures since shutting borders in early 2020, though it has not confirmed any infections. 

In September 2020, North Korea fatally shot a South Korean fisheries official found floating in its waters along a poorly marked sea boundary. 

South Korea said that North Korea troops were under orders to shoot anyone illegally crossing the border to protect against the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier in 2020, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un placed a border city under total lockdown after a North Korean defector with COVID-19-like symptoms sneaked back home. The fate of that defector, who had lived in South Korea, is not known.

On Saturday, North Korea announced it had decided to place top priority on strict virus restrictions at a high-profile ruling party meeting last week.

The two Koreas are split along the world’s most heavily armed border, called the Demilitarized Zone. 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in raise their hands after signing on a joint statement at the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone, South Korea on April 27, 2018

This picture shows the North Korean border county of Kaepoong from a South Korean observatory in the southern boundary of the Demilitarized zone

An estimated 2million mines are peppered inside and near the 248km (155 mile) -long, 4km (2.5 mile) -wide DMZ, which is also guarded by barbed wire fences, tank traps and combat troops on both sides.

Defecting via the DMZ is rare. At the height of their Cold War rivalry, both Koreas sent agents and spies to each other’s territory through the DMZ, but no such incidents have been reported in recent years.

About 34,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea since the late 1990s to avoid poverty or political oppression, but a vast majority of them have come via China and Southeast Asian countries.

North Korea has yet to report any cases of the coronavirus while experts have questioned its claim of a perfect record.

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