A South Korean soldier has made a shock defection across the border to Kim Jong-un’s North Korea.
This marks a rare defection when the soldier made a daring escape northwards through the heavily fortified demilitarised zone.
South Korean military officials confirmed the escape on Sunday.
The trend has been defectors heading south across the border, from the dictatorial north, to the democratic south.
The defector was spotted by South Korean military surveillance near the eastern part of the border, Joint Chiefs of Staff officers said.
Troops were dispatched to recover the individual but failed to do so, and instead could only watch as they ran north of the border.
An officer requesting anonymity, reportedly said south Korea sent a message to North Korea, requesting that the safety of the defector was ensured, but did not receive a response.
The defector crossed a zone that has an estimated two million landmines across the 155-mile-long and 2.5-mile-wide strip that is guarded on both sides and lined with barbed wire, anti-tank traps and soldiers.
A few months ago in September, North Korean troops shot and killed a South Koran fisheries official.
The dead official was found floating in the water because of what have been branded draconian anti-virus rules to deal with Covid, that allow troops to shoot at anyone illegally crossing the border.
Defections from South Korea northwards are incredibly rare.
But around 34,000 North Koreans have fled to South Korea since the late 1990s, usually through China.
This comes as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un vowed to further bolster his country’s military capabilities, and maintain draconian anti-covid laws at a political conference this week.
At a speech given to the a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party, the official Korean Central News Agency reported he said: “The increasingly unstable military environment on the Korean Peninsula and international politics have instigated calls to vigorously push forward with our national defense build-up plans without any delay.”
However, during a party congree 12 months ago, Kim admitted his economic plans had failed the country and left them in the “worst-ever” situation.
This is largely because trade with North Korea’s biggest economic partner China, shrank by about 80% in 2020 before it plunged again by two-third last year.
In 2020, the economy suffered its biggest contraction since 1997 and grain production dropped to the lowest level since Kim took power in 2011.