South Korea confirms defector swam back to North Korea

South Korea confirms defector swam back to North Korea
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South Korean officials said Monday that a North Korean defector who arrived in the South in 2017 had returned to the North.

The New York Times reported that the unidentified 24-year-old man, who was referred to only by his family name, Kim, had crossed a narrow strait to the northern part of Ganghwa Island, the same area he was thought to have used to enter South Korea in 2017 upon his initial defection.

“We spotted the specific location from which he crossed over to the North on Ganghwa Island,” said a South Korean military official.

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His fate in the North remains unknown; defectors are often sent to political prison camps in North Korea if they are repatriated, and North Korean officials had said Sunday that the man was also thought to be carrying the coronavirus, though South Korean officials told the Times that there was no evidence he had been tested or in contact with infected persons.

North Korea has officially claimed to not have any confirmed cases of COVID-19 within its borders, a claim questioned by international experts due to the North's large border with China, where the pandemic is thought to have originated.

He is thought to be a native of Kaesong, North Korea, which has since been put under lockdown by North Korean officials as a result of his believed return.