South's military captures possible defector from NorthA North Korean man was captured after crossing into South Korea along the peninsula’s eastern border, Seoul’s military said Wednesday.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said the man was captured by the South’s troops at 9:50 a.m. around 10 hours after he was detected by surveillance equipment installed in the heavily fortified demilitarized zone (DMZ) in Goseong County, Gangwon.
“In coordination with related authorities, we will conduct an investigation into the man, including how he crossed the border and whether he has an intention to defect to the South," the JCS said in a statement.
"No unusual moves by the North Korean military have been detected," the military added.
It is not yet clear whether the man was a soldier or civilian.
A senior figure in Seoul’s Ministry of Unification said the man was likely a civilian who crossed the border to defect to the South. But military sources gave conflicting information, with some saying the man was wearing a military uniform and others claiming he was not.
Some military sources also said the man appears to have crossed over a barbed wire fence along the border, as part of the fence was discovered damaged.
Troops in the area were first alerted to a possible infiltration on Tuesday between 7 and 8 p.m., and initiated a massive search operation in the area after a military alert was raised.
The man was eventually found within the civilian control line near the border, significantly south of South Korea’s closest guard posts in the DMZ.
The last known North Korean defection across the inter-Korean border took place in December 2018, when a soldier crossed the military demarcation line into the South.
A series of security breaches recently prompted a pledge from the South Korean military to beef up its surveillance and tighten discipline among service members.
In June 2019, a wooden boat carrying four North Koreans slipped into the South Korean port of Samcheok without being detected by maritime patrols. The incident triggered intense concern in Seoul about the state of border security in the East Sea.
And this July, a North Korean defector who had previously come to the South swam back across the western maritime border to his hometown of Kaesong in North Korea.
The fact that the escape went undetected by the South’s military until North Korean propaganda publicized the defection surprised many and raised further alarm about border controls.
BY SHIM KYU-SEOK, YONHAP [firstname.lastname@example.org]