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South Korean crosses border, defects to North Korea

South Korean crosses border, defects to North Korea

US and Korean troops keep vigil at the Joint Security Area at the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea in 2015. (Image Credit: James Kimber via Stars and Stripes)

A rare defection from South Korea to North Korea has occured on Sunday with South Korean officials saying they launched a search operation to locate the defector who allegedly crossed the border to North Korea at 10:40 PM local time. The authorities have alerted North Korea to the person who was seen crossing the Military Demarcation Zone that marks the boundary between the two countries.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said it carried out a search operation after detecting the person around 9:20 p.m. (1220 GMT) on Saturday on the eastern side of the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas, a Reuters report said. The JCS said it could not confirm whether the person was alive, but sent a notice to the North via a military hotline asking for protection.

Usually, defectors are seen arriving from the North Korean side to the South, but Pyongyang's strict anti-coronavirus measures and lockdowns of border areas to prevent cases reaching the country have caused the number of defectors to dip to an all time low. A lockdown was declared in the border city of Kaesong by Kim Jong-Un last July, after a South-Korean defector claimed to have had Covid-19 symptoms shortly after crossing the border.

Cross-border relations soured after denuclearisation negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington stalled since a failed summit in 2019. South Korea and a U.S.-led U.N. force are technically still at war with North Korea since the 1950-1953 Korean War ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty.

Defectors who come from North Korea are typically seeking succour from the oppressive military regime under Kim Jong-Un. The journey is difficult and fraught with risks as the DMZ zone that forms the border area is heavily patrolled on both sides with explosives and the ever-present risk of being shot.

A South Korean fisheries official was shot dead last year by North Korean forces, prompting backlash from South Korea and an apology from the North which blamed it's coronavirus restrictions for the reaction.

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TAGS:South KoreaNorth KoreaDefectorMilitaryKim Jong-UnCovid-19
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