South Korea has arrested a North Korean man they believe was trying to defect by crossing the heavily armed land border separating the two countries.
The man was first seen crossing the barbed wire fence just before 7:30 pm Tuesday night, South Korean media reported.
He was arrested at 9:50 am on Wednesday morning after surveillance devices found him at the eastern end of the demilitarized zone [DMZ], a strip of land 248 km (155 miles) long is filled with mines.
It is not clear whether the man was a soldier or a civilian, although reports said he was not wearing a uniform.
“An investigation is planned to find out details about the man, including how he went down and whether he wants to escape,” South Korean joint chief of staff. said in a statement.
The Defense Department declined to confirm a Yonhap news agency report saying that the military had issued a “Jindotgae” anti-intrusion warning for the eastern border area.
The incident came within weeks after a South Korean Ministry of Fisheries official was killed after traveling to North Korea across the countries’ maritime borders, increasing tensions amid claims that North Korean soldiers had shoot him dead, dump his body in fuel and do not mourning. get off. South Korea’s intelligence agency said this week it had “situational evidence” that the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, had opened an investigation into the shooting.
Few of the 31,000 Koreans who defected to the South in the past two decades have done so through the DMZ, where the occasional military skirmishes are also the setting for cross-border negotiations. in hard times. Most of those who defected to China and to the South via a third country, usually Thailand.
In 2018, a Korean soldier defected to South Korea through the eastern part of the DMZ, while another was shot by his compatriots as he ran across the border in a dramatic escape to the region. Male in 2017.
South Korea resumed tours to the border village of Panmunjom on Wednesday, a year after they were suspended due to an outbreak of African swine fever in the North and recently concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. .
South Korea’s unification minister, Lee In-young, did not mention the suspected defection at a ceremony held on Wednesday to mark the resumption of tours, but urged everyone to North Koreans travel freely in the DMZ and the inter-Korean hotlines have been cut recently. be recovered.
“Re-establishing communication channels 24 hours a day will be the basis for restoring inter-Korean relations,” Lee said.
North Korean state media did not comment on Wednesday’s incident at the border, which has divided the two countries since the 1950-1953 Korean War. South Korea said it did not observe any unusual activity by the North Korean military.