06/16/2015, 00.00
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Korea, a 19 year-old soldier deserts north on foot through the Demilitarized Zone

The soldier said he had been subjected to violence and abuse in the barracks where he was stationed. It took him 10 days to cross the 8 kilometers of "no man's land" that divide the two Koreas. Seoul confirms desertion. AsiaNews Catholic sources express doubts on the whole affair: "A lot of things do not add up, hopefully not a planned political maneuver".

Seoul (AsiaNews) - Violence, abuse and bullying in barracks. These are the reasons why a young North Korean soldier of 19 defected, through the Demilitarized Zone and surrendered to guards of the South in Hwacheon.

The Seoul Defense Ministry says it "confirmed his will to defect after he reached our guard post”. The North Korean soldier told investigators that he had decided to defect "because of habitual beating at his camp while harbouring complaints about the reality of his homeland. "

Hundreds of North Koreans flee their country, but it is very rare that they choose to cross the Demilitarized Zone on foot. This, despite the name, is one of the most militarized areas in the world, Seoul and Pyongyang are in fact still technically at war, since the civil conflict that divided the peninsula, between 1950 and 1953,  ended with a simple armistice.

According to the defector, it took him 10 days to cross the approximately eight kilometers of "no man's land" that actually represents the border between the two countries. According to some experts, the success of the attempt "shows that the surveillance by the North is very relaxed. In other eras, he would never have been able to arrive alive ".

However, AsiaNews Catholic sources who work with refugees from the North expressed doubts on the matter: "There are several things that do not add up. The ministry confirmed the defection within 24 hours, when usually it takes at least two months after a person enters the South. And it's strange that the incident has not sparked the usual rhetoric from Pyongyang. In these months every event in Korea is politicized, on both sides. Hopefully this is not a pre-planned political maneuver".

Since the end of the civil war, about 28 thousand North Koreans have fled to the South in search of a better life. However, the South Korean society still looks at them as potential spies and relegates them to the lowest levels of social life. For years, the Catholic Church has been committed to improving the lives of exiles, repeatedly termed as "agents of communion" for the future reunification of the peninsula.

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