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(3rd LD) N. Korean soldier expresses desire to defect after crossing border: JCS

Defense 15:54 August 01, 2019

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead to update latest info; ADDS more details throughout)

SEOUL, Aug. 1 (Yonhap) -- A North Korean soldier crossed the inter-Korean border over a river that flows between the two Koreas and expressed a desire to defect to the South, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said Thursday.

The man was spotted being carried southward by the Imjin River across the Military Demarcation Line inside the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in the central part of the inter-Korean border at around 11:38 p.m. on Wednesday, according to the JCS.

"A South Korean soldier on guard duty first found an unidentified object floating in the river via thermal observation devices, which was later confirmed as a person. The military then took him safely into custody in accordance with due protocol," a JCS officer said.

"The man is an active-duty soldier, and he expressed his desire to defect to the South. Related procedures are underway," he added.

The North Korean military in the border regions has not shown any unusual movements, according to the JCS.

As the region experienced dense fog and rain yesterday, the military had deployed more troops and realigned its surveillance system to focus more on the upper part of the river, the officer noted.

It was the first time since 2010 that a North Korean defected to the South via the Imjin River, though the last defection across the DMZ took place in December 2018, when a North Korean soldier fled to the South after crossing the eastern part of the inter-Korean border.

The Imjin River near South Korea's border city of Paju (Yonhap)

graceoh@yna.co.kr
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