North Korean trespasser wants to defect

Hyonhee Shin
·1-min read

A North Korean who crossed the heavily-fortified border with South Korea wants to defect, Seoul officials say.

The man was taken into custody in the Demilitarised Zone separating the two Koreas on Wednesday, several hours after he was spotted crossing barbed wire fences, prompting an urgent search operation.

Authorities have launched an investigation into how the man managed to cross the frontier, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

"I understand the person has expressed his willingness to defect," spokesman Kim Joon-rak told a briefing, declining to provide further detail during an ongoing investigation.

Kim said border controls were being further examined after the search for the man revealed some parts of the fences equipped with electronic monitoring systems were found to have been damaged, possibly by typhoons.

There was no unusual movement from North Korean troops, Kim added.

The defection comes as Seoul reopens tours to the southern part of the DMZ, which has seen several armed clashes but also served as a venue for key inter-Korean events, including some of the most recent summits.

The tours had been suspended in October 2019 after an outbreak of deadly African swine fever broke out in North Korea, and then due to concerns about coronavirus this year.

This week's DMZ crossing is the first since a North Korean soldier defected to the South in 2019.

Another soldier crossed in 2018 and in 2017 North Korean troops fired at a soldier when he drove an army truck through the DMZ.