South Korean authorities capture U.S. citizen in buffer zone along border with North Korea

South Korean authorities captured a U.S. citizen in a buffer zone along the North Korean border, officials said.

The man, who was not identified, was detained Monday morning in the Civilian Control Line, a miles-wide zone along the border established after the Korean War to prevent skirmishes.

Separately, a North Korean soldier crossed into South Korea at Panmunjom, the complex used by both countries for diplomatic talks over the years to visit the demilitarized zone.

The incident began with the soldier, who hasn’t been identified, driving near the border before leaving his vehicle and fleeing amid gunshots from his fellow North Korean soldiers. At least one shot hit him.

American officials said the wounded soldier then hid near a building on the South Korean side of the complex, before South Korean and American troops — who have worked at the complex together for decades — rescued him.

South Korean authorities, accompanied by a United Nations escort and interpreter, took the soldier to a hospital in Suwon, a Seoul suburb, for treatment. No American or South Korean forces were hurt in the incident, which remains under investigation.

A spokesman for the South Korean Defense Ministry, Kwon Ki-hyun, confirmed broad details about the incident involving the U.S. citizen but deferred specific questions about the man — and any potential charges — to police and the National Intelligence Service.

Neither could be reached for comment, and it was unclear whether the man faced any charges.

An official with the U.S. Embassy said authorities were looking into what happened but could not immediately provide more details.

"If it is determined that a U.S. citizen has been detained, the U.S. Embassy will provide appropriate consular services,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of privacy concerns.

The man's activities and motives remained under investigation, government officials said. A spokesman for the Blue House, South Korea’s presidential office, confirmed basic information but declined to elaborate.

South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported that the man entered the country three days ago.

The incidents came days after President Trump visited Seoul — part of a trip to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Stiles is a special correspondent.


UPDATES:

6:40 p.m.: This article has been updated with details about the North Korean soldier.

This article was originally posted at 8:30 a.m.

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
59°