(Belga) The man who entered North Korea on New Year’s Day by crossing the ultra-fortified border between the two countries from the South would be a North Korean defector, the defense ministry in Seoul said on Monday.
The individual was spotted by surveillance equipment crossing the eastern part of the “demilitarized zone” (DMZ) which divides the Korean peninsula. A search operation was launched by the military, without result. South Korean authorities have yet to identify the man, but a Defense Ministry official said he could be someone who came from North Korea in 2020, also crossing the border illegally. “We assume this is the same man who defected south by scaling the barbed wire fence in November 2020,” an official told AFP. The man is in his thirties, added this representative without giving further details. For its part, the South Korean news agency Yonhap quoted a representative of the Ministry of Defense who said that the man “has been recognized as being the same as the defector”. No evidence of espionage has been discovered so far, he told Yonhap. The man reportedly worked as a maintenance worker in South Korea after he defected, the agency added. The South Korean army informed Pyongyang of this clandestine entry. North Korea said it received this information but did not act on it, a defense ministry official told AFP. Years of repression and poverty in North Korea led more than 30,000 people to flee to the South in the decades following the Korean War (1950-1953), but crossings in the other direction are extremely rare . In 2020, North Korean soldiers gunned down at sea a South Korean fisheries official who Pyongyang said had illegally crossed the sea border. They then burned his body, according to South Korean military officials. The vast majority of North Koreans who escape first go to China before heading south, usually via another country. Only a few have dared to cross the DMZ, which is riddled with mines and barbed wire and where the military presence is massive on both sides. (Belga)