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Colin Zwirko is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul.
Update at 1130 KST: This article has been updated to reflect further developments in the story.
A North Korean soldier detected crossing the inter-Korean border just before midnight on Wednesday has expressed a desire to defect to South Korea, an official from Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said on Thursday.
A JCS statement earlier in the day reported an unidentified hotspot was detected moving south across the Imjin River south of the military demarcation line (MDL) at 23:38 by a thermal observation device (TOD).
A single individual was then identified at 23:56, the statement said, leading the military to “follow procedures to safely secure” them.
Following their apprehension, the individual was determined to be a North Korean male.
“Relevant authorities are in the process of investigating his steps taken in moving south, whether he plans to defect, and other details,” the JCS said Thursday morning.
No unusual movements from the North Korean military were detected in relation to the individual’s crossing the border, the statement added.
“The man is an active-duty soldier, and he expressed his desire to defect to the South,” a JCS official told local media later in the day. “Related procedures are underway.”
The man reportedly crossed the Imjin River on Wednesday night
Wednesday night’s crossing follows the reportedly “accidental” drifting of a wooden vessel containing three North Koreans across the eastern sea border last weekend – all of whom were later repatriated upon their request.
Another vessel’s crossing the eastern sea border in June, where two crew members decided to defect and two others were repatriated, sparked controversy over the South’s failure to detect the intrusion around 150 kilometers south of the border.
Overland defections across the inter-Korean MDL are relatively rare, with the most recent coming in December last year.
Prior to that, another North Korean crossed the MDL a year prior in December 2017, just a month after the high-profile defection of a young KPA solider across the border inside the Joint Security Area (JSA).
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: Imjin-gang (River) and DMZ by Visionstyler Press on 2009-06-24 18:23:15