World Bulletin / News Desk
A North Korean soldier managed to escape to South Korea on Monday morning, in the first defection of its kind since 2012, according to a government source.
Most North Korean refugees defect via the reclusive state's northern border with China -- official data shows that around 1,400 made it to South Korea last year.
Local news provider Yonhap reported Sunday that North Korea has been planting landmines along its southern border to prevent soldiers from crossing the notorious Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that has separated the Koreas for decades.
The agency cited Monday a South Korean Defense Ministry official who revealed that the soldier in question defected at around 8 a.m. .
The self-described teenager reportedly made it across alone, despite thousands of military personnel lining the DMZ on both sides.
"He crossed the border in Hwacheon, Gangwon Province, on foot, and arrived at one of our guard posts. He then expressed his will to defect," the official told Yonhap on condition of anonymity.
The last time a North Korean soldier defected directly across the inter-Korean border was in Oct. 2012, less than a year after leader Kim Jong-un assumed power.
Testimony from activists and experts has suggested that defecting in any direction has become tougher under Kim's reign.
The Koreas remain in a technical state of conflict as they never signed a peace treaty after the Korean War of 1950-53.
Last October, the two Koreas exchanged fire after troops from the communist country drew near the border. No one was hurt.
A month later, a North Korean patrol approached the land border again, prompting warning shots from South Korean troops.
North Korean troops seem to have collected some military information near the western, middle and eastern fronts of the Military Demarcation Line for the past two months, the official said. The source added that South Korea has beefed up its defense against a possible southward intrusion.
North Korean soldiers, mostly in groups of up to 20, are also checking signposts marking the MDL and re-erecting any that have collapsed.
There are nearly 1,300 such signs lining the border, spaced out between 200-300 meters from one another.Last Mod: 15 Haziran 2015, 13:02