The man who crossed the DMZ to North Korea is a former defector

SEOUL — A man evade Korea’s border control and entered North Korea last weekend used virtually the same route just over a year ago to defect from

Kim Jong Un

regime.

There is no evidence that the North Korean defector, a man in his 20s, was a spy for Pyongyang, Seoul’s military said on Monday. He works as a cleaner and may be struggling financially, it added.

Late on Saturday, the man climbed a high barbed wire fence along the eastern inter-Korean border, passed through the heavily fortified North Korean demilitarized zone and entered North Korea at 10:40 p.m., Seoul’s military said. . The South Korean military first spotted the man a few hours after he entered the DMZ and failed to stop him from fleeing north.

Based on surveillance footage, Seoul officials said Monday that they believe man is the same person who jumped over a 10-foot fence in the same border area and enter Korea in November 2020. At the time, the man testified to the South Korean military that he had been a gymnast in North Korea, which the Defense Ministry could not confirm. This man also expressed his desire to defect to South Korea.

A series of High border violations in recent years has sparked criticism in South Korea over the infiltration of the shared border with the Kim regime, which is about 150 miles long and more than 2 miles wide. Military border guards, barbed wire fences and minefields protect the DMZ on both sides, while South Korea equips high-tech equipment for motion detection.

Over the weekend, Seoul sent a message to Pyongyang seeking to ensure the safety of the man crossing the border. On Monday, North Korea acknowledged receiving the messages but did not respond to the defector’s condition, Seoul’s military said. The border of the Kim regime remained blocked throughout the pandemic because of the fear of Covid-19.

About 34,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea since the late 1990s. Many flee repressive conditions, which the United Nations has called “systematic, widespread and gross” violations that “could lead to crimes against humanity”.

But life in Korea is full of challenges. Fugitives are the target of investment scams, due to their lack of experience with banks, ATMs and the financial system. According to South Korea’s Unification Ministry, the unemployment rate for defectors is 9.4% in 2020, about three times the unemployment rate of the general population. About a quarter live below the poverty line.

According to a 2019 survey from the government-funded Korea Hana Foundation, their monthly income is two-thirds of the national average.

Nearly 1 in 5 defectors are thinking of returning to North Korea, mainly because they miss their homeland and family, according to a 2021 survey of more than 400 defectors by the Center for Foreign Affairs. Korea Human Rights Database, a non-profit organization based in Seoul.

North Korean defectors receive government support, from education, housing to employment, for five years after moving to the South. But defector groups argue that the help was not enough – and not long enough – due to the transition from the Kim regime.

However, rarely do defectors back to Kim mode. According to South Korea’s Unification Ministry, only 30 North Korean defectors returned to North Korea between 2012 and 2020.

Write letter for Dasl Yoon at dasl.yoon@wsj.com

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https://www.wsj.com/articles/man-who-crossed-dmz-into-north-korea-is-a-previous-defector-11641212793 The man who crossed the DMZ to North Korea is a former defector

Ian Walker

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