An unidentified person entered North Korea by land from the south on New Year’s Day, the South Korean military reported on Sunday. This is an extremely rare crossing of this ultra-fortified border which has separated the two countries since 1953. The individual was detected on Saturday by surveillance equipment in the “demilitarized zone” (DMZ) which divides the Korean peninsula at 9:20 p.m. local time, the South Korea Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee said.
“It has been confirmed that the person crossed the military demarcation line to the north,” the statement added. The person has not yet been identified, a committee official said, adding that South Korean authorities have sent a message to the North regarding the incident. A search operation was launched by the military, without result.
Littered with mines and barbed wire
No unusual activity on the part of the North Korean military was spotted, the statement continued. Years of repression and poverty in North Korea led more than 30,000 people to flee south in the decades following the Korean War (1950-1953), but crossings in the other direction are extremely rare .
In 2020, North Korean troops shot and burned the body of a South Korean fisheries official who Pyongyang said had illegally crossed the sea border. The vast majority of North Koreans who escape first go to China before heading south, usually via another country. Only a few have dared to cross the DMZ, which is riddled with mines and barbed wire, and where the military presence is massive on both sides.