January 04, 2022

Another Security Breach at the Inter-Korean Border Reinforces Concerns Over South Korea’s Ability to Protect Itself

By Jason Bartlett

On the Korean Peninsula, 2022 began with a reported North Korean defector-turned-South Korean citizen crossing the border into the North, stoking existing concerns over the security of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas.

Current media reports claim that a North Korean defector living in South Korea crossed the DMZ into North Korea on January 1, 2022. The individual reportedly defected to South Korea two years ago by crossing the DMZ and has seemingly taken the same route back to North Korea.

That an individual can enter and exit the “most heavily fortified border in the world” without capture raises serious concerns regarding South Korea’s ability to adequately monitor its border with North Korea.

The South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff attributed the 2020 border security failure to a “loose screw” that prevented the border sensors from working properly. In the same year, another North Korean defector returned to the North by swimming through a border drain and South Korean officials blamed the oversight on a lack of proper training of border patrol personnel. Inadequate technology and training along the South Korean side of the DMZ are two massive vulnerabilities that North Korean operatives can exploit for a range of covert operations including dispatching spies, kidnapping South Korean citizens, and in the most extreme scenario, invading South Korea.

Defection through the DMZ is a highly dangerous and uncommon path to South Korea for North Korean refugees due to the heavy presence of landmines and soldiers from both sides of the border. Instead, North Korean defectors typically traverse 3,000 miles through China – which presents its own dangers – to a friendly South Korean embassy in Southeast Asia prior to resettling in the South.

Read the full article from The Diplomat.

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