North Korean Teenage Soldier Defects to South Korea

D-Bo , June 15, 2015, 9:59 a.m.

A teenage North Korean soldier defected to South Korea through the inter-Korean border Monday, a Defense Ministry official said. “A North Korean man presumed to be a serviceperson defected to our side at around 8 a.m. today,” the official said, requesting anonymity.

“He crossed the border into Hwacheon, Gangwon Province, on foot, and arrived at one of our guard posts. He then expressed his will to defect,” he added, noting that the man identified himself as a 19-year-old private, the lowest rank among the North’s enlistees.

“The defector told our investigators that he came here after suffering from repeated assaults at the military and while harboring complaints about the reality of his homeland,” the official said. “We will make more details available after the interrogation into him is completed.”

No inter-Korean conflicts took place over the course of securing the defector, and no other unusual movements by the North Korean military regarding this case have been detected, according to the ministry.

Over the past several years, South Korea has seen a series of defection cases from the poverty-stricken communist neighbor. But it is not usual for North Korean soldiers to walk crossing the Military Demarcation Line to defect. Monday’s defection is the first since October 2012 when a North Korean soldier crossed the eastern border into the South.

According to military sources, Pyongyang has been striving in recent weeks to prevent defection through the demilitarized zone by beefing up patrols along the inter-Korean border and checking to see if border markers are properly set up. A total of 1,292 markers made out of either wood or concrete are established every 200 to 300 meters along the border.

North Koreans, many of whom are civilians, usually cross the relatively porous border with China first and then try to head to South Korea, often through Southeast Asian nations. In 2014 alone, 1,396 North Koreans defected here, according to government data.

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