Eleven North Korean defectors returned to their homeland from South Korea in the past five years, the Unification Ministry here said Monday, after Pyongyang claimed that a defector suspected of having COVID-19 symptoms recently crossed the demarcation line.
The 24-year-old defector is believed to have fled to the North while he was under police investigation over suspicions of raping a female defector last month, reports Yonhap News Agency.
His return came to light after the North said Sunday that a “runaway” came back home with coronavirus symptoms.
On Monday, the South Korea’s Unification Ministry said a total of 11 defectors have gone back to the North since 2015.
“There were three defectors who crossed back to the North in 2015, four in 2016 and another four in 2017, bringing the total number to 11, based on data, including North Korea media reports,” Yoh Sang-key, the Ministry’s spokesperson, told the media here.
The total figure does not include the latest case, he added.
Yoh also stressed the difficulty in tallying the exact number of North Korean defectors who crossed back home.
“When defectors come to South Korea they have no obligation to file a report when going abroad, just like any other South Korean, so it is difficult to track the exact whereabouts of the defectors,” Yonhap News Agency quoted the spokesperson as saying.
On Sunday, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said that leader Kim Jong-un convened an emergency politburo meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party and adopted the “maximum emergency system” against the coronavirus after a defector returned home with suspected COVID-19 symptoms.