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N. Korean captured after crossing into South

South Korean guard post in the DMZ. (Yonhap)
South Korean guard post in the DMZ. (Yonhap)
A North Korean man was captured and taken into custody by South Korea’s military after he crossed the inter-Korean border on foot along the east coast, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Wednesday.

Late Monday night, military surveillance first picked up the man approaching the northern side of the fortified military demarcation line separating the two Koreas in Goseong County. 

At around 7:25 p.m. Tuesday, the man triggered the highest alert here, when he was spotted climbing over barbed wire fences along the general outposts standing south of the demarcation line. Sensors on fences had not worked properly, authorities said later.

But the capture came Wednesday at around 9:50 a.m. near the outposts as the unfavorable landscape surrounding area made it harder for the military to track him down.

“An investigation is underway to establish his identity and intentions. No unusual moves by the North Korean military have been detected,” the JCS said.

The man was unarmed when the military found him near the outposts and did not try to engage authorities. He was reportedly a civilian seeking to defect.

The military is expected to send an inspection team to study why sensors malfunctioned and whether the unit in question had exhausted all avenues to prevent or contain the event.

The event had nothing to do with the 2018 inter-Korean military pact that led to decommissioning some guard posts near the border, the military said. Some questioned if removing the general posts could have blindfolded the military, as they stand before the general outposts to spot unusual activity.

But the military still faced mounting criticism for what many blamed to be a belated response to a potential North Korean infiltration and a second time security breach near the area.

The unit responsible came under hot water in 2012, when it failed to prevent a North Korean soldier seeking defection from coming down to a South Korean outpost unnoticed. A North Korean defected through the Demilitarized Zone last in 2018.

“Practically, we can’t cover all the bases and take every look at something suspicious,” a senior military official said. The military upgraded all surveillance equipment near the demarcation line years ago to operate a more airtight defense there.

By Choi Si-young (siyoungchoi@heraldcorp.com)
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