A U.S. citizen was arrested yesterday attempting to cross into North Korea, Seoul’s Joint Chiefs Staffs (JCS) confirmed on Tuesday.
The 58-year-old American, who the JCS say hoped to “contribute” to the North, was arrested at 0955 KST on Monday.
The U.S. citizen, who has not been named, crossed the Civilian Control Line (CCL) below the demilitarized zone in Yeoncheon-gun, Gyeonggi Province, an official at the Provincial Police Agency told NK News on condition of anonymity
A senior official at the JCS told the National Assembly’s defense committee that the arrestee “rambled” during his interrogation by military authorities.
He had reportedly been staying in Seoul and Munsan, having planned to go to North Korea by crossing the ceasefire line “with the judgment that he could contribute to the situation in the North,” Suh Wook, Chief Director of Operations at the JCS, told lawmakers.
“[He] is the U.S. citizen who entered the country on November 3,” he added.
Suh said the man was not carrying any tools and was found carrying spare underwear.
“The statements were inconsistent and he rambled on,” he added.
Police said a resident had reported the man to a soldier on duty at a guard post in the civilian control zone. He was arrested an hour later, near Misan-myeon.
“Our troops arrested him by blocking the barbed-wire fences, conducted the joint interrogation and transferred him to the Gyeonggi Bukbu Provincial Police Agency,” Suh told lawmakers.
Location of arrest
While some outlets have reported the man is from Louisiana, the police agency in charge of the case declined to confirm his personal information, citing an ongoing investigation.
The U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy stationed in Seoul told NK News that they “are aware of” media reports of the arrest and are looking into it.
“If it is determined that a U.S. citizen has been detained, the U.S. Embassy will provide appropriate consular services,” an official at the embassy told NK News.
“Privacy concerns prevent us from sharing information on individual cases.”
Monday also saw the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) announce the defection of a North Korean soldier at the Joint Security Area (JSA) dividing the two Koreas.
North Korean troops reportedly fired 40 shots at the defector, who is now in a critical condition in a South Korean hospital.
North Korea’s foreign ministry has condemned the ban as a “vile measure” and said that the country would “leave our door wide open to any U.S. citizen who would like to visit.”
While Americans rarely attempt to defect to North Korea, it is not unheard of. In 2014, American detainee Matthew Miller was sentenced to six years of hard labor by a Pyongyang court after attempting to claim asylum in the country.
In a similar case later in the year, U.S. citizen Arturo Pierre Martinez illegally entered the DPRK by crossing the Amnok (Yalu) River border with China. He later held a press conference in the DPRK, in which he criticised the U.S. for human rights violations.
Featured Image: Republic of Korea Armed Forces
Edited by Oliver Hotham
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