A man has unexpectedly returned to North Korea after initially relocating to the South.
On January 3, 2022, the South Korean defence ministry stated an unidentified individual had been caught on surveillance sneaking into the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) of the border, which is heavily armed.
An official member of the military located in Seoul detailed that a man in his 30s crossed the heavily guarded border not just once, but twice, returning back on January 1 to the North because of ‘barely scraping a living’ in the South.
Most people tend to make the journey from North to South in the hopes of a more prosperous life and better work, with 33,800 North Koreans having so far relocated to settle there.
However, contrary to the normal flow of people – who mostly go via China – after working as a janitor the man decided to return to the North, The Independent reports.
Due to the unexpected movement of the man, an investigation has since been launched into how he was able to enter the DMZ without being caught.
Despite the suspicion, it is not currently believed the man could be a North Korean spy, according to military officials.
An official stated:
I would say he was classified as lower class, barely scraping a living.
In November 2020, the man was caught along a near-identical route by the South Korean army. He told them he was a former gymnast, a ministry official said.
Seoul police, who protected and assisted the man, were warned he may try to return back home in June, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency. But as a result of there being no evidence, no action was taken against him.
However, the day before his latest journey, the man was seen getting rid of his mattress by neighbours.
A neighbour told Yonhap how he took out his ‘mattress and bedding to garbage dumps on that morning,’ which they viewed as ‘strange because they were all too new’.
On Tuesday, January 4, it was alleged the man was being helped by the government regarding his housing, medical and safety needs, according to an official who works for the cross-border affairs at Seoul’s Unification Ministry.
The man’s risky journey has led to activists calling for greater awareness around the economic, emotional and social difficulties defectors face upon leaving North Korea for the South.
Official data has revealed that around 56% of those who make the journey are from within a low-income group.
Moreover, a poll conducted by Database Centre For Korean Human Rights and NK Social Research in Seoul showed that as a result of feelings of nostalgia, 18% of defectors were open to returning back to North Korea.
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