South Korean citizen repatriated from North Korea gets arrested for attempting to re-enter the state

The man reportedly drove through the checkpoint on the South Korean side of the Unification Bridge in Paju without undergoing proper inspection. PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A South Korean citizen who was repatriated from North Korea last week was arrested on Sunday (Aug 12) morning for attempting to illegally enter the communist country, local reports said.

According to the reports, a 34-year-old man surnamed Suh drove an SUV through the checkpoint on the South Korean side of the Unification Bridge in Paju, Gyeonggi province, which leads to the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas, without undergoing proper inspection.

Suh was caught by South Korean troops at the joint security area of Panmunjom, at a reservoir located 6km away from the bridge.

Suh was reported to have driven the vehicle across the bridge with a punctured tire after he drove through a barricade with metal spikes installed at the North Korean side of the bridge. He was later handed over to police and is being investigated by the South Korean police.

This is Suh's second known attempt to enter North Korea. Police reports say that Suh was detained by North Korean authorities for 16 days after illegally entering the North via China last month. North Korean authorities returned Suh through the truce village of Panmunjom on Aug 7.

A police official said that Suh has yet to reveal the intentions behind his actions, and police plan to further probe the matter.

North Korea's decision to return Suh last week marked the first such move since it repatriated a 40-year-old South Korean citizen in November 2011, after detaining him for 40 days.

In the recent decade, North Korea has often repatriated South Koreans who illegally went to the country, which critics see as a message for the Seoul government to do the same for its citizens that defected to the South.

While there are approximately 30,000 North Korean defectors living in South Korea, according to government data, the Seoul government acknowledged the lack of data on South Koreans who willingly defected to the North.

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