American detained trying to enter North Korea, while North Korean soldier escapes south
TOKYO — The Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas saw an unusual amount of action Monday, with an American man unsuccessfully attempting to cross into the North and a North Korean soldier successfully defecting to the South.
The 2.5-mile-wide strip between North and South Korea, which President Bill Clinton once called “the scariest place on Earth,” has kept the two states separate since the Korean War ended in an armistice rather than a truce in 1953.
But a handful of North Koreans have made it across in recent years, and several Americans have been thwarted trying to make the opposite journey.
A 58-year-old man from Louisiana was arrested by South Korean forces Monday morning for crossing the Civilian Control Line, just outside the DMZ, as part of an attempt to get into North Korea “for political purposes,” authorities said.
A resident of the border county of Yeoncheon, 40 miles north of Seoul, saw the man and alerted police, the Yonhap News Agency reported.
The man, identified only as “A,” had arrived in South Korea only three days earlier.
The American Embassy in Seoul was aware of the report and was looking into it, an official said. “If it is determined that a U.S. citizen has been detained, the U.S. Embassy will provide appropriate consular services,” he said.
In a separate incident, a North Korean soldier manning a guard post on the northern side of the Joint Security Area — the area with the blue huts straddling the DMZ, where inter-Korean meetings are sometimes held — defected to the South.
He was shot by North Korean soldiers while he was escaping across the line and is now being treated in a hospital, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
“The military has raised its alertness against the North Korean military’s possible provocations and is maintaining its full readiness posture,” a military official said, according to Yonhap.
President Trump attempted to visit the DMZ last week while visiting South Korea, but his helicopter had to turn back because of bad weather.