S.Korea sees ‘high chances’ of defector crossing into North

Seoul: South Korea sees “high chances” of an individual’s alleged illegal border crossing into North Korea, a military official said here on Sunday after Pyongyang claimed that a defector with suspected COVID-19 symptoms recently crossed the demarcation line.

“The military is looking into the detailed routes, seeing high chances of a certain individual’s border crossing into the North,” the official was quoted as saying by the Yonhap News Agency.

“Regarding the North’s media report, our military has specified some people and is verifying facts in close collaboration with related agencies.”

The Joint Chiefs of Staff is reviewing the military’s overall readiness posture, including its monitoring equipment and recorded video clips, he said.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said earlier in the day that leader Kim Jong-un convened an emergency politburo meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party and adopted the “maximum emergency system” against the coronavirus pandemic after the defector returned home.

“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.

Authorities are known to be looking into a 24-year-old resident in Gimpo, west of Seoul, based on the KCNA report that the person had fled the North in 2017, reports Yonhap News Agency.

The defector is known to be currently out of contact. He has been under police investigation over suspicions of raping a female defector last month.

He reportedly fled to the South by swimming, and the possibility is high that he swam back to the North, instead of using land routes, such as through the heavily fortified military demarcation line separating the two Koreas.

In January, North Korea declared the launch of a national emergency system against the new coronavirus, shutting down its borders and tightening quarantine measures.

North Korea is yet to report a case of coronavirus but has intensified its preventive efforts across the country, calling its fight against the virus is a “political matter” that will determine the fate of the country.