Seoul, June 19 (IANS) A North Korean man defected to South Korea by crossing the border, the South Korean army said. This is the second defection in less than a week.
The defector was found in the Han River in Seoul on Sunday, according to the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff as cited by Yonhap news agency. South Korean authorities were interrogating the man to determine his motive for fleeing to the South.
This is the second desertion in less than a week after a North Korean soldier fled to South Korea through the Demilitarized Zone, the heavily fortified border that divides the two Koreas, on Tuesday, the first such case since September 2016, Efe news reported.
The number of North Korean refugees in South Korea reached 30,000 at the end of last year, according to the South’s Ministry of Unification.
Most deserters, however, escape by crossing North Korea’s northern border with China.
The annual number of defectors steadily increased from 1,384 in 2005 to 2,914 in 2009, but fell between 2011-2015 owing to stricter control by North Korea at the border and tougher punishments for those caught fleeing, according to the ministry’s data.
North and South Korea are technically still at war, as the Korean War (1950-1953) ended with an armistice but no peace treaty has ever been signed.