A man who previously defected from North Korea avoided South Korea’s border controls to reenter the North on Saturday.
Seoul’s military said there was no evidence that the defector was a spy, noting that he worked as a cleaner and was probably struggling to make ends meet, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The South Korean military said the man scaled a barbed-wire fence along the easter border of the two countries before making his way through the Korean demilitarized zone. He entered North Korea around 10:40 p.m., Seoul’s military said, adding that they had detected the defector after he was already in the demilitarized zone and were unable to stop him from traveling north.
South Korean officials said they believe the man entered South Korea in late 2020 after climbing over a 10-foot fence in the same border area. At the time, the man said that he wanted to defect to South Korea.
The officials also contacted North Korea to ensure the man’s safety after crossing the border, and while Kim Jong Un’s regime acknowledged receiving the message, it did not confirm the status of the defector.
Since the late 1990s, at least 34,000 North Koreans have fled to South Korea, escaping Jong Un’s oppressive communist regime that the United Nations has characterized as “systemic, widespread and gross” which “may amount to crimes against humanity.”
Despite the cruel and deadly conditions in North Korea, nearly one in five defectors have considered returning to life under the communist regime, primarily due to missing their families and hometowns, a survey of over 400 defectors by the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights revealed.
While many defectors have thought about returning to North Korea, just 30 went back between 2012 and 2020, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said.
Earlier this year, one of the most popular North Korean defectors and now a human rights activist, Yeonmi Park, slammed U.S. Olympian Gwen Berry for turning her back on the American flag during the National Anthem while standing on the podium, saying the “privileged” athlete “would be executed” if she did the same thing in North Korea.
Park, who fled North Korea and was formerly enslaved in China, said Berry’s actions were “unthinkable,” noting that the United States is the “most tolerant country”
“I was a slave. I was sold in China in 2007 as a child at 13 years old. The people actually go in slavery under Chinese Communist Party in North Korea. There is actual injustice,” Park said. “And the fact that she’s complaining about this country, the most tolerant country, she doesn’t really understand history.”