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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

North Korean soldiers briefly cross border for second time this month

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Around 20 to 30 North Korean soldiers working in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) crossed the military demarcation line (MDL) but returned immediately after warning shots and broadcasts from the South Korean military, Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said Tuesday.

The JCS believes that the crossing of the MDL by North Korean soldiers was a simple mishap since they returned north immediately after warnings were given.

Previously, on June 9, dozens of North Korean soldiers working in the DMZ similarly crossed the MDL but retreated after receiving warning shots from the South. The JCS also judged this as unintentional.

“The area where the North Korean military crossed the MDL today is different from the area that was crossed on June 9,” said an official from the JCS.

North Korean soldiers work somewhere along the border in the demilitarized zone in a photo provided by the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff Tuesday. [JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF]

North Korea’s recent crossings of the MDL appear to be related to activities within the DMZ.“North Korea has deployed a large number of troops to various frontline areas, including the Northern Limit Line, since April this year, where they have been laying mines, reinforcing tactical roads and installing unidentified structures that appear to be anti-tank barriers,” the JCS official said.

The demilitarized zone (DMZ) is seen from Paju, Gyeonggi, on June 11. [YONHAP]
The demilitarized zone (DMZ) is seen from Paju, Gyeonggi, on June 11. [YONHAP]

The DMZ is currently overgrown with vegetation, sometimes making MDL markings challenging to see.

The JCS also announced Tuesday that a number of North Korean soldiers were recently killed or injured by landmine explosions while working in the DMZ.

“It appears that the North Korean military is continuing to carry out work in the DMZ in an unreasonable manner despite the fact that many casualties are occurring due to landmine explosions,” said an official from the JCS during a press briefing Tuesday.

South Korea resumed loudspeaker broadcasts directed towards North Korea on June 9 in response to Pyongyang’s launch of trash-laden balloons across the border.

Since May 28, North Korea has sent more than 1,600 balloons carrying garbage into South Korea in response to the launch of anti-Pyongyang leaflets by South Korean activists. The JCS reported that the balloons carried trash like plastic and waste paper. Analysis has yet to detect hazardous substances. 
 
BY LIM JEONG-WON [lim.jeongwon@joongang.co.kr]