North Korean soldier defects across DMZ – Al Jazeera America

Seoul said Monday that a teenage North Korean soldier defected to the South by crossing the heavily guarded border between the two Koreas.

An official at South Korea’s defense ministry said that the serviceman, believed to be in his late teens, walked across the border about 8 a.m. through the central eastern front. The ministry official requested anonymity citing office rules.

No gunfire was exchanged. The serviceman told the ministry that he was beaten regularly and had grievances about the North Korean regime, according to the official.

It is not common for North Koreans to defect to the South via the land border dividing the Koreas. In 2012, a North Korean soldier walked to south of barbed-wire fences without getting caught by guards. Most of the about 25,000 defectors now living in South Korea reached here by traveling to China.

The Koreas have remained divided since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty. The DMZ that divides them is one of the most heavily fortified borders in the world. Authorities on both sides said they could not guarantee the safety of the women had they walked across.

The DMZ is the only place where the U.S. maintains its land mine supply

In May, 30 women from 15 countries were denied an attempt to walk a cross the DMZ, although North Korea allowed a South Korean bus to cross the demarcation line to pick them up on the North side of the DMZ and transport them over the border to South Korea.

Al Jazeera with The Associated Press

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