İrem UZUN -TDO- South Korea’s military said on Tuesday it had captured a North Korean man who crossed the heavily fortified border between the two countries and was investigating whether he tried to defect.

The man was detected on the border at around 4:20 a.m. moving North-to-South and was taken into custody by the South Korean military around 7:20 a.m. An investigation is underway on whether or not the man crossed to defect, messages from the South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) to reporters stated.  “So far, there has been no unusual trend from North Korean troops,” a follow-up message read. 

The detection is the first publicly known land border intrusion in 2021, after several high-profile detections on both sides of the border in 2020. Two North Korean defectors living in the South separately attempted to re-defect back to the North Korea last September and July, with the latter succeeding by going through a drain near the border in western Ganghwa-eup and swimming to the North. In November 2020, a North Korean man crossed the eastern border in Gangwon province and was found by the South Korean military around 10 hours later. Follow-up media reports alleged that the North Korean was a former gymnast who vaulted over the 3-meter barbed-wire border fence.

About 30,000 North Koreans have fled repression and poverty for South Korea. The vast majority of the defectors first travel to neighboring China, sometimes staying there for years before making their way on to the South via third countries. Only a handful risk crossing the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which is heavily-fortified and closely watched. 

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