Seoul police arrested a man who braved the heavily fortified border to return to North Korea after spending two years in the capitalist South. A similar but successful crossing recently triggered a Covid-19 alert in the North.
A defector in his 30s was caught sneaking into a military base in Cheorwon, a county located right next to the border with North Korea, the South’s police revealed on Sunday. The returnee happened to have four mobile phones and a cutting machine on him when he was apprehended.
South Korea police said the unsuccessful border crosser had fled from the North in 2018 and remained in Seoul since then. His motives for trying to return to his homeland have yet to be established.
“The man is under police investigation. We are looking into details such as why he tried to cross the border,” a police official told Reuters, refusing to confirm when the incident happened.
Two months ago, another defector fled back into North Korea, but that border crossing was a success. He showed up in the border city of Kaesong, where his appearance sparked fears he might be bringing the first coronavirus case into the reclusive state. The epidemic alarm was triggered after on-site medical screening there returned “uncertain results,” Pyongyang’s state media reported.
The South maintained that the man had not been registered as a Covid-19 patient before he made his escape, however.
Although the two Koreas share one of the most heavily guarded borders in the world, defections from North to South do happen from time to time. Some defectors try to sneak past the frontier, while others flee through third countries such as China, Mongolia, or Vietnam, where they turn up at South Korean embassies and apply for asylum.
North Korean defectors often have trouble integrating into the South’s vibrant capitalist society, despite receiving government benefits and financial allowances to help them settle in their new land. A total of 11 North Koreans have returned to their homeland over the past five years, according to the South’s Yonhap news agency, citing the Ministry of Unification.
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