North Korean crosses DMZ in hopes of defectingA 21-year-old North Korean man defected across the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas on Tuesday, according to the South Korean military yesterday.
The man, surnamed Kim, was discovered near the border in Cheorwon, Gangwon, waving his hands to express his will to defect, said a Joint Chiefs of Staff official who asked for anonymity.
“One of our soldiers caught Kim after he pointed to an entrance,” the official said. “Kim was heard to have said he crossed over because he did not want to live under the North Korean regime.”
The man is being investigated by military and intelligence officials to confirm his identity as a regular citizen and not a North Korean agent. The man is under high suspicion because he was in civilian clothes and also because the border between the two Koreas is heavily guarded. A military source cited Kim as saying he was familiar with the area because he had been stationed there as a soldier. Kim said he had been discharged from the army after he was deemed unsuitable for the military.
A significant number of North Korean citizens have entered South Korean territory since late last year, whether intentional or not. A group of 31 North Koreans drifted south near the west coast in a boat on Feb. 5 and they are still being held by the government for questioning. The 31 will be sent back to North Korea soon, the source said.
“None of them have shown any particular signs of wanting to stay in the South,” the source said.
Unification Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo said on Feb. 9 that the 31 people would be handled according to their personal requests, whether it was returning to the North or staying in the South. North Korea had requested the return of the 31 through a statement sent on Feb. 5.
Normally, the South Korean government returns North Koreans who enter South Korean territory not by choice, such as drifting in boats into South Korea waters. Three men who were found in a small fishing boat last December were sent back to North Korea in January when they expressed no wish to stay in the South.
By Kim Su-jeong, Christine Kim [email@example.com]
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굶주림 견디지 못해 탈북한 듯..정부 합심조 귀순동기 조사 중
15일 북한 주민 1명이 강원도 철원군 육군 3사단 관할 비무장지대(DMZ)를 통해 귀순했다.
정부 관계자에 따르면 "이날 오후 5시쯤 북한 주민 김모 씨가 철원군 김화읍 유곡리 남방한계선 부근에서 경계근무중이던 우리 군 장병에게 발견됐으며 발견 즉시 귀순의사를 밝혔다.
김씨는 "군에 입대했다 부적격 판정을 받아 퇴출당했으며 평소 남한사회를 동경했다"고 말한 것으로 전해졌다.
정부 관계자는 "김씨가 비무장지대를 넘어 귀순하는 과정에서 경미한 부상을 입어 현재 군 병원에서 치료를 받고 있다"고 말했다.
정부는 국가정보원과 국군기무사령부,경찰 등으로 합동심문조를 구성해 김씨가 귀순한 동기와 경로 등을 조사하고 있다.
정부 관계자는 "김씨가 비교적 쉽게 DMZ를 넘은 것으로 볼때 휴전선 일대에서 군 복무를 한 것으로 보인다"며 "귀순동기와 경로 등에 대한 조사결과가 나오기까지는 며칠 정도가 걸릴 것으로 본다"고 말했다.
육로를 통해 북한 주민이 귀순한 것은 지난해 3월 2일 북한군 하전사(부사관)한명이 강원도 동부전선을 통해 귀순한 이후 1년만이다.
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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