North Korean soldier crosses DMZ to defect to South

Barbed wire at the DMZ Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The border is one of the most heavily protected areas in the world

A North Korean soldier has defected to South Korea by walking across the heavily protected Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), say officials in Seoul.

The man crossed the eastern section of the border unarmed on Thursday morning, said South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), with no shots fired.

He is now being investigated, said JCS.

The DMZ is fortified with landmines and barbed wire and guarded by tens of thousands of troops on both side. Defections across it are very rare.

In June last year, a teenage recruit from the North surrendered to his Southern counterparts at Hwacheon.

In 2012 a soldier from the North made it through rows of surveillance cameras and electric fencing before eventually managing to hand himself over - an embarrassment that cost three South Korean field commanders their posts.

The border and its fortifications have been in place since the Korean War ended in an armistice in 1953.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Anti-North propaganda material sent across the border by South Korean activists encourages soldiers to defect

Seoul says more than 29,000 North Koreans have defected to the South since the end of the Korean War, most of them via China.

They receive some government help integrating, although some still complain of financial difficulties and discrimination.

The latest defection follows media reports that a young North Korean who defected while competing in a maths competition in Hong Kong left the territory for South Korea on the weekend.

The 18-year-old had spent two months living in the South Korean consulate, which was heavily guarded during his stay.

South Korea has not commented on the reports.

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