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N Korean soldier defects after crossing demilitarized zone, says South

Earlier this week, Pyongyang is under heavy economic sanctions over its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programmes and carried out its latest launches.

SNS | New Delhi |

A North Korean soldier crossed the demilitarized zone that divides the peninsula on Thursday, according to Seoul’s military.

“More than 30,000 North Koreans have escaped to the South since the two were separated by war more than 65 years ago, many of them driven by prolonged economic hardship”, a Seoul government data said.

The defection announced on Thursday, which took place in the central part of the peninsula was only the third such crossing since then.

Only a few have dared to cross the DMZ, which is riddled with landmines and has a heavy military presence on both sides.

In November 2017, a North Korean soldier made global headlines when he dashed through the border village of Panmunjom in a hail of gunfire from his own side. The trooper was hit several times but survived.

The man was seen on Wednesday night in the DMZ moving in a southerly direction after crossing the Military Demarcation Line that forms the border, Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

He was taken into custody “in accordance with procedures” and was being questioned, they added.

Aside from the fact he was a soldier, there was no immediate word on the man’s identity or his motives.

“No particular North Korean military movement is seen across the border,” the Joint Chiefs further said.

Earlier this week, Pyongyang is under heavy economic sanctions over its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programmes and carried out its latest launches.

It denounces defectors — who are an important source for accounts of the regime’s treatment of its citizens — as “human scum”.

While defections in the other direction are extremely rare, a 72-year-old South Korean man defected to Pyongyang last month, following in the footsteps of his parents who made a high-profile switch of allegiance in the 1980s.

In the past, a small number of South Koreans in economic difficulties have defected to the North but Pyongyang has repatriated many of them as they hold little propaganda value.

(With AFP inputs)