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South Korea crosses armed border in rare defection to the north By Reuters

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© Reuters. A man is standing next to binoculars at the Dora Observatory in North Korea, which is trying to see the propaganda village of Gijungdong, near the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas, in Paju, South Korea, on April 24, 2018. REUTERS / Kim Hong-Ji

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Author: Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) – A South Korean man has crossed a fortified border in a strange defect to North Korea, the South Korean military said on Sunday.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said it conducted a search operation at around 9.20pm on Saturday (1220 GMT) after detecting people east of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates the two Koreas.

“We have confirmed that the person crossed the Military Demarcation border at around 22:40 (1340 GMT) and went north,” JCS said.

The JCS said it could not confirm whether the person was alive, but sent a note to the North asking for protection via a military phone.

The crossing of the illegal border in South Korea occurred while North Korea was taking drastic measures against coronavirus since it closed its borders in early 2020, although it has not confirmed any infection.

Public and political outcry erupted after North Korean troops shot dead a South Korean fishing official who went missing at sea in September 2020, Pyongyang accused him of anti-virus rules and apologized.

Two months earlier, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared a national emergency and closed a border town. A North Korean deserter said he had symptoms of COVID-19 after crossing the South-North border illegally.

Long blockades in the North and restrictions on inter-provincial movement have also led to a decline in the number of North Korean deserters arriving in the South.

Cross-border relations deteriorated after the denuclearization negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington failed in 2019 after the summit.

The UN-led UN and South Korean forces are technically still at war with North Korea since the 1950-1953 Korean War ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty.

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