Seoul, Jan 3 (EFE).- A man who made an extremely rare crossing into North Korea across the heavily guarded border this weekend has been identified as a North Korean defector who had arrived in South Korea using the same route and method in November last year, a defense ministry official told local press Monday.
The man, in his 30s, was identified using surveillance footage, which captured his perilous journey across an eastern point of the frontier on Saturday, the official cited by Yonhap news agency said.
South Korean authorities suspected he was a North Korean defector given his apparent knowledge of the area, situated to the north of Goseong, some 160 kilometers northeast of Seoul.
Upon arrival in South Korea last year he told authorities that he was a gymnast, which would have helped him scale the three-meter fence that lines the border area.
Few defectors cross the inter-Korean land border, which comprises the Korean Demilitarized Zone and the Military Demarcation Line, created as part of a 1953 Armistice that froze the Korean War.
South Korean media reported that the North Korean defector had worked as a cleaner in Seoul.
The economic challenges many North Koreans face after reaching South Korea can lead some to try to return to the North. Around 30 have made the dangerous journey in the last decade.
South Korean authorities sent a message urging Pyongyang to protect the defector.
Since the pandemic began, North Korean soldiers stationed on the frontier have been ordered to shoot on sight.
The North Korean army confirmed that it had received the message from Seoul but has yet to respond.
South Korean authorities dismissed speculation that the man was a North Korean spy. North Korean defectors are often vetted for months by South Korean intelligence agencies as they undergo assimilation classes in the South.
Defections from North Korea are more common across the tightly-controlled but relatively more porous border with China, from where they must arrive to a country that does not have an extradition deal with North Korea, such as Mongolia. EFE