The ex-gymnast who escaped to North Korea, probably a “retransfuge” in 2020

The person who entered North Korea from South Korea via the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between the two countries on New Years Day is said to be the same person who crossed the heavily guarded border into South Korea in late 2020.

The person was spotted by South Korean surveillance technology crawling over a barbed wire fence at the southern edge of the border area and heading towards the North Korean side, the Associated Press reported, citing Seoul military officials.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry said on Monday it suspected the person was a former North Korean citizen who was captured south of the DMZ in November 2020.

The person identified himself as a former gymnast and said he climbed over the barbed wire fence before being picked up by South Korean troops.

The man who entered North Korea from the Demilitarized Zone in South Korea is said to be the same person who crossed the border from North Korea in 2020.
AP Photo / Ahn Young-joon, file

The person’s appearance in security footage would match that of the former defector.

A thermal observation device used by South Korea detected four people on Saturday on the north side of the border region, suggesting that three North Korean soldiers recovered the defector, the Defense Ministry said.

South Korea has asked North Korea to ensure the safety of the person through a military helpline communications channel. North Korea replied that it had received the South Korean messages but did not give details of the fate of the border worker, according to the ministry.

The person had previously identified as a gymnast when he had already crossed the border into South Korea.
The person had previously identified as a gymnast when he had already crossed the border into South Korea.
AP Photo / Ahn Young-joon

South Korean media said the former defector gymnast was working as a cleaner and struggling economically. The Defense Ministry declined to confirm the information, but said an initial investigation showed he was not engaged in espionage or other suspicious activity in South Korea.

The DMZ stretches 255 miles and is guarded by barbed wire fences, anti-tank traps, landmines, and combat troops on both sides.

In September 2020, the North Korean military shot dead a South Korean fisheries official found floating in its waters, in accordance with what Seoul called strict anti-coronavirus rules that allowed shooting at anyone found crossing the border illegally. .

While it’s incredibly rare for South Koreans to flee north, around 34,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea since the late 1990s, usually passing through China rather than trying to cross the border. Strongly guarded DMZ. Only about 30 of them have returned home in the past 10 years.

Observers say these returnees likely failed to adjust to their new, highly competitive and capitalist life in South Korea, had large debts, or were blackmailed by North Korean agents who threatened to harm. to their loved ones if they did not return.

With post wires

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