Wed. Jan 26th, 2022

South Korea says it has sent a message to North Korea to ensure the person’s safety, but has yet to receive a reply.

South Korea’s army says an unidentified person crossed the heavily fortified border with North Korea on New Year’s Day.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said its troops spotted the person – with surveillance equipment – on Saturday at 21:20 (12:20 GMT) at the eastern part of the border.

It sent soldiers to capture him or her, but they could not find the person and surveillance tracked down the person who crossed the border, an illegal act in South Korea.

“We have confirmed that the person crossed the Military Demarcation Line border at about 22:40 (13:40 GMT) and crossed to the North,” the JCS said.

South Korea sent a message to North Korea on Sunday morning to ensure the person’s safety, but received no response, the JCS added.

The crossing comes at a time when North Korea has been in place under strict anti-coronavirus measures since it closed its borders in early 2020. To date, it has not confirmed any infections.

A public and political uproar erupted after North Korean troops shot dead a South Korean fishery official who went missing at sea in September 2020, for which Pyongyang blamed the antivirus rules and apologized.

Two months earlier, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had declared a national state of emergency and closed a border town after a North Korean defector, who he said had COVID-19 symptoms, crossed the border back to the north of South Korea crossed.

The fate of that defector is not known.

The two Koreas are divided along the world’s heaviest armed border, the demilitarized zone. An estimated 2 million mines are peppered within and near the 248-kilometer (155-mile) long, 4-kilometer (2.5-mile) wide DMZ, which is also guarded by barbed wire fences, tank traps and combat troops on both sides.

Defect via the DMZ is then rare.

At the height of their Cold War rivalry, both Korean agents and spies were sent through the DMZ to each other’s territory, but no such incidents have been reported in recent years.

About 34,000 North Koreans have migrated to South Korea since the late 1990s to avoid poverty or political oppression, but an overwhelming majority of them came via China and Southeast Asian countries.

Prolonged restrictions and restrictions on inter-provincial movement have pushed the number of North Korean defectors arriving in the South to an all-time low.

Some South Koreans have tried to move to impoverished, authoritarian North Korea, but this is rare.

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