A North Korean soldier crossed the military demarcation line (MDL) into the South on Saturday morning, the ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) announced.
The announcement of the apparent defection comes a day after the two Koreas completed the destruction of 20 guard posts (GPs) in the demilitarized zone (DMZ).
“The military today (December 1, Saturday) detected one North Korean soldier —who crossed the MDL on the eastern front in Gangwon province into the South — at 0756 local time,” the JCS said in a written statement, adding that the soldier was spotted by “surveillance equipment.”
“We located the soldier, taking safety measures in accordance with procedure,” it added, without providing further details.
The ROK JCS notably refrained from using the word “defection” – a departure from conventions seen last year.
South Korean authorities plan to interview the soldier to find out “how he came to the South,” the statement added.
The JCS also said there had been “peculiar movements by the North Korean military on the front line” in the region where the defection took place.
Since the signing of a broad military agreement in September, both sides have been taking steps to turn the DMZ into a “peace zone.”
In addition to the trial withdrawal of 20 GPs, Seoul and Pyongyang have been in the process of demilitarizing the Joint Security Area (JSA) in the truce village of Panmunjom.
While Seoul has said it aims to guarantee freedom of movement for visitors and tourists in the JSA within the year, the United Nations Command (UNC) and the two Koreas are yet to reach an agreement on fresh guard regulations for the area.
Saturday’s defection is the first of its kind in just under a year, with a low-ranked North Korean soldier defecting to the South last December.
That incident followed the dramatic November defection of North Korean soldier Oh Chong Song in the JSA at Panmunjom.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Ministry of National Defense (MND), file photo
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