North Korea repatriates rare South Korean defector

North Korea on Thursday repatriated a South Korean man who had entered the country illegally in a rare case of an apparent defection into the impoverished, reclusive state. -- PHOTO: AFP
North Korea on Thursday repatriated a South Korean man who had entered the country illegally in a rare case of an apparent defection into the impoverished, reclusive state. -- PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (AFP) - North Korea on Thursday repatriated a South Korean man who had entered the country illegally in a rare case of an apparent defection into the impoverished, reclusive state.

The man, identified as Kim Sang Gun, 52, was handed over at the border truce village of Panmunjom.

Unauthorised travel to the North violates South Korea's national security laws and Kim faces arrest and possible imprisonment. The South's Unification Ministry said he was being questioned by security authorities.

The North's official KCNA news agency said last week that Kim had entered the North illegally through a third country "after finding it difficult to live in South Korea".

It did not specify where or when he crossed the border, and offered no reason for sending him back to the South.

More than 26,000 North Koreans have escaped to the South since the end of the Korean War in 1953, but defections the other way are very rare. In the past, the few defectors that crossed into North Korea were usually allowed to remain.

In an unusual move last year, Pyongyang sent home six South Koreans who had entered the North between 2009 and 2012.