It Was Close to Midnight Near the DMZ. Then, a Rare Sight

North Korean soldier picked up by South Korean troops after being spotted by thermal imaging
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 1, 2019 6:53 AM CDT
North Korean Soldier Makes Rare DMZ Crossing
South Korean soldiers stand near the military demarcation line inside the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in Cheorwon, Gangwon province, South Korea, on Nov. 22, 2018.   (Kim Min-hee/Pool Photo via AP)

Although it's common for North Koreans to try to make a run for the South, what's not as common are defections across the Demilitarized Zone, which is littered with guards, landmines, barbed wire, and other barriers. But that's apparently what a North Korean soldier did this week, and he's now in military custody in the South. Per the BBC, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff says the active-duty soldier was spotted with thermal imaging equipment near the Imjin River shortly before midnight on Wednesday, and he was soon picked up by South Korean troops. The JCS says he made clear he wanted to defect.

The Washington Post notes most defectors from the North to the South cross into China first, then make the trip down to Southeast Asia; from there they head to South Korea. The last time a North Korean soldier made a dash for it across the DMZ was in November of last year. In 2017, another North Korean soldier was shot at by his colleagues as he fled to the South; he survived and made it across. Reuters reports that on Wednesday, the South Korean military made another find, this time in the Imjin River: the body of another apparent defector, a North Korean believed to be a civilian who'd been dead for about two weeks. (The son of well-known South-to-North defectors went back himself to the North.)

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