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Defector refled to N. Korea 14 months after jumping border fence: MND

Seoul has not yet found any indication of espionage

Goseong guard post in the demilitarized zone (Yonhap)
Goseong guard post in the demilitarized zone (Yonhap)
A defector who had previously jumped over the inter-Korean border fence has refled to North Korea after 14 months, South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense confirmed Monday.

The announcement came one day after the South Korean military said an unidentified person had moved into North Korea across the Military Demarcation Line on Saturday.

The government said the man, who had escaped North Korea by jumping over the 3-meter fence along the eastern inter-Korean border, redefected to North Korea.

“The redefector was presumed to be a defector A in his early 30s, who crossed the Military Demarcation Line in Goseong County, Gangwon Province, in November 2020,” a military official said, without revealing the defector’s name.

The redefector once again crossed the inter-Korean border in the area of Goseong County under the supervision of the 22nd Infantry Division. But the military official said he did not use the same overland route when fleeing South Korea.

South Korean authorities were able to discern the identity of the man by his appearance and description by naked eye in the video footage filmed by closed-circuit televisions installed along the Civilian Control Line. The man was caught in footage at around noon Saturday.

The military official also confirmed that a group of four people in the North Korean area were detected by its Terminal Observation Device immediately after the redefector crossed the border. But the South Korean military has been investigating the details.

Although questions still remain as to the motive of the redefection, the South Korean military said Seoul has not yet found any evidence that the redefector was involved in espionage activities.

But the military official went on to say that the “relevant agencies are still checking the details.”

According to related South Korean authorities, the redefector was unable to freely access information and worked as a cleaning man in South Korea. He was believed to have economic difficulties as well.

Authorities also said the redefector had been unreachable by South Korean authorities since Thursday.

But the military official on Monday declined to provide personal information due to the sensitivity, adding that the related authorities regularly oversaw the redefector in accordance with the rule.

Also, the South Korean government sent a notice to North Korea twice Sunday through a military hotline to ask to secure the safety of the person.

North Korea said they received the statements, but the country has not yet provided a specific response to South Korea’s request.

The South Korean military on Monday declined to confirm whether the man used to be a gymnast in North Korea. But in 2020, South Korean authorities suspected his light body weight and gymnastics experience could have aided in the escape.

By Ji Da-gyum (dagyumji@heraldcorp.com)
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