World News

North Korean Soldier Defects to South, Crossing Heavily Armed Border

Posted November 30, 2018 11:14 p.m. EST

SEOUL, South Korea — A North Korean soldier defected to South Korea on Saturday morning, fleeing across the countries’ heavily armed land border, officials said.

South Korean soldiers guided the North Korean to safety after they found him walking across the eastern sector of the Demilitarized Zone, the buffer zone separating the Koreas, the South Korean military said in a brief statement.

South Korean officials planned to debrief him to try to determine his motive for defecting, the military said. There was no unusual movement from the North Korean army at the time the soldier crossed, it said.

Although more than 32,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea, most have done so through China, eventually making their way to a South Korean embassy in another country. It is rare for defectors to cross the DMZ, which is fortified by layers of barbed-wire fences, minefields and armed sentries on both sides.

In November 2017, a North Korean soldier dashed through a hail of bullets fired by his fellow troops to enter the South through Panmunjom, the so-called truce village that straddles the border.

Since the Korean leaders held talks for the first time in April, they have been trying to ease tensions along the border. They have dismantled 22 of the hundreds of guard posts within the DMZ and have discussed turning Panmunjom into an unarmed neutral zone.

On Friday, a South Korean train crossed the North Korean border for the first time in a decade; it will be used in a field study on the possibilities for renovating the North’s decrepit rail system.