north korea

American Citizen Detained In North Korea After Crossing Border From South Korea


A U.S. national has been detained in North Korea after crossing the heavily fortified border from South Korea, the United Nations Command said on Tuesday, prompting efforts to resolve the issue and potentially inflaming already tense diplomatic relations in the region.


The UN Command, the multinational military organization that operates the demilitarized zone and joint security area separating North Korea from South Korea, said a U.S. national is believed to be in North Korean custody after crossing the border without approval.

The organization said the American citizen was on an “orientation tour” of the border village separating the two countries when he crossed the border into the North.

The statement offered no further details on the person or reasons why they may have crossed the border.

UN Command said it is working with its counterparts in the North Korean military to “resolve this incident.”


The border separating North Korea and South Korea is one of the most heavily fortified strips of land on the planet. The area is strewn with land mines and many troops and guard posts are stationed on both sides. Both countries are still technically at war as there has never been a treaty to end the Korean War, which began in the 1950s. Border crossings are infrequent, but not uncommon, occurrences, though they almost always involve people traveling from the isolated and repressive North to the modern and affluent South. South Korean officials claim tens of thousands of people have defected from the North since the late 90s. Crossings from the South into the North, however, are much rarer.


Americans are actually banned from visiting North Korea and U.S. passports are invalid for travel to or through the country unless explicit permission has been granted from the State Department. The State Department says the ban is in place “due to the continuing serious risk of arrest and long-term detention of U.S. nationals” in North Korea. It was implemented in 2017 following the death of American student Otto Warmbier, who suffered severe injuries during detention in North Korea after being sentenced to hard labor for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster when visiting the country.

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