A South Koreanparticular person crossed the border to North Korea over the weekend in an uncommon defection to the North.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said the individual was detected on the eastern side of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on Saturday, which led to a search operation, according to Reuters. The DMZ separates North and South Korea.
“We’ve confirmed that the person crossed the Military Demarcation Line border about 10:40 p.m. (1340 GMT) and defected to the North,” officials said.
The JCS said it was unable to discern if the individual was alive, but reached out to the North through a military hotline to request that the person be protected, Reuters reported.
Such a border crossing is illegal in South Korea, the news service noted, adding that it occurred as officials implemented strict COVID-19 mitigation measures in North Korea.
North Korea has not reported any confirmed COVID-19 infections, though its borders have been closed since early 2020. Some experts, however, are skeptical of Pyongyang’s claims.
A South Korean fisheries official was shot by North Korean troops in September 2020, which sparked uproar in the North, according to Reuters. The official went missing earlier that month.
Pyongyang reportedly blamed the incident on anti-coronavirus rules, however, apologized.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in July 2020 announced a national emergency and closed off a border town after a North Korean defector who claimed to be suffering from COVID-19 symptoms moved from the North to the South, which is illegal, according to Reuters.