The South Korean Ministry of Defense said on Monday (3) that it believed the man seen crossing the heavily guarded border into North Korea last week was a defector from the Kim Jong-un regime who had already passed through it. place in 2020.
The southern Joint Chiefs of Staff said it had carried out a search operation after detecting the person in the eastern part of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas. Previously, the military command had said it was a South Korean. According to the country’s media, the man had experience as a gymnast, which helped him scale the fences.
A ministry official told reporters the man is speculated to be around 30 years old and arrived in the south in November 2020. At this point, the Seoul government does not believe it is a case of espionage, according to the official. .
He also reported that North Korea acknowledged having received messages from the South about the incident but did not provide further details on what happened. Investigators are still looking to determine whether the movement detected over the weekend in the northern part was regime troops heading to take the man away.
The border crossing, which is illegal in South Korea, came amid the North’s tough measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, taken in early 2020 — although the regime, however, has not confirmed any infections.
The restrictions sparked an incident in which North Korean troops shot and killed a South fisheries officer and then burned his remains, justifying it as a precaution against Covid-19. After the case, the regime apologized.
Although thousands of North Koreans have settled in the South, passages through the demilitarized zone are rare, and most deserters leave the country for China. Still, several incidents have raised concerns in Seoul over security breaches or delayed response by troops guarding the border.
When the defector crossed from North and South Korea in 2020, for example, it took 14 hours for him to be detained, prompting a pledge by the Seoul military to improve security.
In last week’s case, the presence of a person near the border went unnoticed for about three hours before security cameras recorded someone climbing, which set off the alarm.
A search operation was carried out, but the South Koreans were unable to prevent the passage to the North.