According to the UN Command, an American citizen crossed the border from South Korea to North Korea
ByHYUNG-JIN KIM and KIM TONG-HYUNG Associated Press
Seoul, South Korea — An American crossed the heavily fortified border from South Korea into North Korea, the U.S.-led UN command overseeing the area said on Tuesday amid tensions over North Korea’s nuclear program.
The UN Command said on Twitter that the American citizen was on tour in the Korean border village of Panmunjom and crossed the border to the north without permission.
They said he is currently in North Korean custody and that the UN Command is working with its North Korean counterparts to resolve the incident.
He did not provide further details about who the person was or why he crossed the border.
It is rare for Americans or South Koreans to defect to North Korea, although since the end of the 1950–1953 Korean War, more than 30,000 North Koreans have fled to South Korea to escape political repression and economic hardship at home.
Located in the 248-kilometer (154-mile) long demilitarized zone, Panmunjom was established at the end of the Korean War. There was occasional bloodshed and shooting, but it was also the site of many meetings and a popular tourist spot.
The area is jointly supervised by the UN Command and North Korea. There are no civilians living in Panmunjom.
In November 2017, North Korean soldiers fired 40 rounds as one of their colleagues raced to freedom. The soldier was hit five times before being found under a pile of leaves on the southern side of Panmunjom. He survived and now lives in South Korea.
Some American soldiers fled to North Korea during the Cold War, including Charles Jenkins, who left his military service in South Korea in 1965 and escaped across the DMZ. He appeared in North Korean propaganda films and married a Japanese nurse who was kidnapped by North Korean agents. He died in Japan in 2017.
In recent years, some Americans have been arrested in North Korea after allegedly entering the country from China. They were later convicted of espionage and other anti-state crimes, but were often released after the United States sent high-profile missions to secure their freedom.
In 2018, North Korea released the last three known American prisoners as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un engaged in nuclear diplomacy with then-President Donald Trump. The high-stakes diplomacy collapsed in 2019 amid controversy over US sanctions on North Korea.
Tuesday’s border crossing took place amid high tensions over North Korea’s missile tests since the beginning of last year. Earlier on Tuesday, the United States sent a nuclear-armed submarine to South Korea for the first time in decades as a deterrent against North Korea.