South Korea confirmed ‘will to defect’ of soldier who made a rare crossing directly through one of the world’s most fortified frontiers.
A teenage North Korean soldier surrendered himself to South Korean border guards about 8am after walking across the border into Hwacheon, north-east of Seoul.
“We’ve confirmed his will to defect after he reached our guard post,” said a South Korean ministry spokesman. He was under investigation by the authorities, and the ministry promised to disclose more details later.
The defection sparked a tense stand-off between North and South Korean border guards across the four-kilometre-wide and 248-kilometre-long demilitarised zone, but there was no conflict, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.
Hundreds of North Koreans flee their isolated homeland each year but it is rare for defectors to cross the land border, marked by barbed wire and guarded by tens of thousands of troops on both sides.
Most North Koreans who flee repression and poverty at home cross the porous frontier with China first before travelling through a south-east Asian nation and eventually arriving in South Korea.
In 2012, a North Korean soldier walked unchecked through rows of electrified fencing and surveillance cameras, prompting Seoul to sack three field commanders for a security lapse.
In August 2014, two North Koreans swam across the Yellow sea border to a South Korean frontline island.