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(LEAD) Seoul checking N.K. claim that defector crossed demarcation line to return home

All News 12:47 July 26, 2020

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; ADDS quote from presidential official in 5th para; RESTRUCTURES throughout)

SEOUL, July 26 (Yonhap) -- South Korea is trying to confirm Pyongyang's claim Sunday that a North Korean defector with suspected virus symptoms recently crossed the demarcation line separating the two Koreas to return home, officials said.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency said leader Kim Jong-un convened an emergency politburo meeting of the ruling Workers' Party and adopted the "maximum emergency system" against the coronavirus after a defector returned home with suspected COVID-19 symptoms.

"An emergency event happened in Kaesong City where a runaway who went to the South three years ago, a person who is suspected to have been infected with the vicious virus, returned on July 19 after illegally crossing the demarcation line," the report said.

The military said it is trying to confirm the claim, without giving further details. A unification ministry official also said it is checking related information together with other government agencies.

"Related departments have said they are trying to verify the claim, and that is all that we can say for now," an official at the presidential office said, asking not to be named.

North Korean defectors usually receive three months of resettlement education upon their arrival to the South and are put under the support and management of the police for a five-year protection period. But it is known to be practically difficult to follow their movements in real time considering the large number of defectors in the country.

The number of defectors exceeded 30,000 in 2016. A total of 1,047 North Korean defectors arrived in South Korea in 2019 alone.

(LEAD) Seoul checking N.K. claim that defector crossed demarcation line to return home - 1

scaaet@yna.co.kr
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