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North Korean soldier defects to South across land border

In a rare occurrence, a North Korean soldier has walked over the heavily fortified land border to the South and defected. The incident did not spark any military activity from either side.

The soldier, who is in his late teens, surrendered to South Korean border guards at around 8:00 am local time (23:00 UTC) after walking through the heavily mined Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas, a Defense Ministry official said.

The soldier gave himself up at a guard post in Hwacheon county northeast of the South Korean capital, Seoul, the official was quoted as saying by Yonhap news agency.

There was no unusual military activity from the North owing to the escape, the official said.

Frequent defections

Although more than a thousand people defect every year to South Korea from the impoverished, repressive North, it is rare for someone to cross the DMZ, with most defections coming via China or, less frequently, by sea.

The last such crossing by a North Korean soldier was in 2012.

The DMZ, which extends across the Korean Peninsula, is 4 kilometers (2.49 miles) wide, fortified by landmines and barbed wire, and guarded by tens of thousands of troops from both sides.

Yonhap reported that the North Korean military has laid landmines along parts of the border this year, apparently in a bid to deter would-be defectors.

tj/jil (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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