South Korea confirms return to North of defector suspected of carrying Covid-19

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After expressing doubts about the veracity of the announcement by Pyongyang on Sunday July 26 of the return to the North on July 19 of a defector “suspected” of carrying Covid-19, the South Korean authorities have confirmed, Monday July 27, that a refugee had indeed crossed the demilitarized zone (DMZ) which separates the two Koreas without corroborating however that it would be contaminated.

According to the South Korean news agency Yonhap, the investigation carried out by the police in the community of the refugees of the North (approximately 33,000, arrived mainly since the mid-1990s) established that it was of a 24-year-old man, whose surname was only disclosed, “Kim”, a refugee in the South since 2017.

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Living in Gimpo (a suburb of Seoul), he was wanted following a rape complaint filed by another defector. This Mr. Kim has never been tested and does not appear to have come into contact with an infected person. Two of his relatives have tested negative.

According to the North Korean version, the man was arrested in the town of Kaesong (300,000 inhabitants), not far from the demilitarized zone. The city was immediately confined, and the country placed in “Maximum state of emergency”.

Minefields and bunkers

According to the investigation in the South, Mr. Kim crossed one of the most closely guarded borders in the world, riddled with minefields and bunkers, by taking a water drainage pipe passing under an area of barbed wire in the northern part of Ganghwha Island, located west of Seoul, in the Han River estuary. A bag belonging to him was found nearby. Then he swam across the river which, at its mouth, separates the two Koreas before flowing into the Yellow Sea.

It was by following the same road, in the opposite direction, that he had defected to the South three years earlier. He says in a video circulating on YouTube that his crossing, when he left the North, had lasted seven hours. Very few defectors take the risk of crossing the DMZ. The majority pass through China.

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In the North, Mr. Kim will probably have reached Kaesong on foot, about fifteen kilometers from the river, getting lost in the long lines of pedestrians and cyclists on the side of the main roads due to the lack of transport. He is said to be from this city.

Since 2015, a dozen defectors failing to integrate in South Korea have returned to the North. They are greeted triumphantly: their return to the country is the demonstration of the “hell” of life in the South.

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https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2020/07/28/la-coree-du-sud-confirme-le-retour-au-nord-d-un-transfuge-soupconne-d-etre-porteur-du-covid-19_6047517_3210.html

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