North Korean soldier defects to South by land

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North Korean soldier defects to South by land

A North Korean soldier crossed the military demarcation line on foot to defect to the South, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff announced Thursday.

The soldier defected across the central-east portion of the military demarcation line around 10 a.m. Thursday. South Korean soldiers reported that they found the North Korean soldier unarmed and his crossing to the South did not lead to any conflict.

“We’ve confirmed his will to defect and took him to a safe place for investigation,” said an official from the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The military and the National Intelligence Service formed a joint investigation team to discern his motive and method of defection. But the Joint Chiefs of Staff provided no further details out of concern for the North Korean soldier’s safety.

The defection was the first since the South Korean military resumed its propaganda broadcasts toward North Korea, which were restarted after North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test in January. The last North Korean soldier to defect crossed to the South in July of last year. “I heard that high-ranking officials in the North are being subjected to ideological indoctrination as the North Korean regime tightens its control over the ruling elites,” a government official said, “leadership change in the North might have affected its soldiers, as well.”

The North assigns soldiers to the front line only after identity screening and ideology training to prevent the likelihood of their defection. Defections over land through the heavily guarded four-kilometer-wide (2.5-mile-wide) Demilitarized Zone are rare and only a few soldiers have ever managed to sneak across the inter-Korean land border. “We haven’t noticed anything particular before or after the North Korean soldier defected,” said the official in the military, “but we will keep a close eye on the movements of North Korean military and be prepared for any contingency.”

BY JEONG YONG-SOO [kim.yuna1@joongang.co.kr]

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