Person spotted crossing demilitarised zone into North Korea, Seoul says

(AP) - An unidentified person crossed the heavily-fortified border into North Korea on Sunday, South Korean military officials have said.

South Korea had earlier spotted the person with surveillance equipment at the eastern portion of the border and sent troops to capture him or her on Saturday night.

The troops failed to find the person and the surveillance equipment detected the person crossing over the border, Joint Chiefs of Staff officers said.

South Korea sent a message to North Korea on Sunday morning to ensure the safety of the person but the North has not responded.

It is unclear if this was a rare case of a South Korean hoping to defect to the North, or it could be a North Korean who briefly entered South Korean territory for some reason before returning to the North.

Military guard posts of North Korea, rear, and South Korea, front, are seen in Paju, near the border with North Korea, South Korea, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022. South Korea's military said Sunday that an unidentified person crossed the heavily fortified border into North Korea. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
Military guard posts of North Korea, rear, and South Korea, front, are seen in Paju, near the border with North Korea, South Korea, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022. South Korea's military said Sunday that an unidentified person crossed the heavily fortified border into North Korea. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

In September 2020, North Korea fatally shot a South Korean fisheries official found floating in its waters along a poorly marked sea boundary.

South Korea said that North Korean troops were under orders to shoot anyone illegally crossing the border to protect against the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier in 2020, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un placed a border city under total lockdown after a North Korean defector with Covid-19-like symptoms sneaked back home. The fate of that defector, who had lived in South Korea, is not known.

On Saturday, North Korea announced it had decided to place top priority on strict virus restrictions at a high-profile ruling party meeting last week.

The two Koreas are split along the world’s most heavily armed border, called the demilitarised zone (DMZ).

An estimated two million mines are peppered inside and near the 155-mile-long, 2.5-mile-wide DMZ, which is also guarded by barbed wire fences, tank traps and combat troops on both sides.