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American arrested for trespassing into North Korea

A US citizen – possibly a soldier, according to a South Korean media outlet – entered today without authorization in North Korea during a visit to the militarized border that divides the two Koreas and is currently in the hands of the North Korean military.

“A United States citizen crossed, without authorization, the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (official name of North Korea) during an orientation tour,” the UN Command said in a brief statement on Twitter.

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“We believe that he is currently in DPRK custody and we are working with our Korean People’s Army (KPA) counterparts to resolve this incident,” the text added.

The UN Command is in charge of the southern fringe of the Joint Security Zone (JSA) the only point in the heart of the border where you can see the expensive troops of the two Koreas, who are technically still at war.

The statement does not clarify whether the US citizen was a tourist (the JSA can be visited this way) or a military man, but the Dong-a Ilbo newspaper, citing an anonymous South Korean military source, claims he is a US soldier named Travis King. (although the newspaper has later removed his name from the piece) who had visited the area as a tourist.

In turn, a person named Mikaela Jakobson who says she lives in Stockholm and is on a trip to South Korea has recounted what supposedly happened on her Facebook page.

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The woman assures that she and the American were part of the same group of tourists that traveled to the border today and that after visiting the interior of the central booth of what is known as “Conference row”, next to which the former president met in 2019 of the USA Donald Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, has heard a loud laugh and has seen the man “run between two of the buildings to the other side”.

“It took all of us a bit to react and understand what had just happened, and then we were whisked through Freedom House (where Trump and Kim held a brief summit) and back to the military bus,” writes Jakobson, who has said that he has been asked not to post photos.

The JSA has been the scene of defections in the past, although they have almost always involved people trying to cross into South Korea.

In 2017, a North Korean soldier led a spectacular escape in which his companions hit him with several shots, although he survived.

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In 1984 a student from the now non-existent Soviet Union crossed into the South during a tourist visit, which led to a tragic exchange of fire between troops that ended with the deaths of three North Korean soldiers, one South Korean and one UN Command.

It is unknown what the reaction of the North Korean authorities may be, who still keep their borders tightly closed due to covid-19.

In fact, after the outbreak of the pandemic, the presence of North Korean soldiers on the north side of the JSA is practically invisible, apparently for fear of contagion.

Jakobson herself has corroborated this detail, writing that “there were no North Koreans in sight, not even the guards along the famous line on the other side.”

Although since 2018, as a result of the brief rapprochement between Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington, JSA personnel have not been authorized to carry weapons, the armistice that ended the Korean War (1950-53) still prevents them from crossing the MDL, which divide the area in two.

Source: Elcomercio

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