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Summary of inter-Korean news this week

16:00 July 31, 2020

SEOUL, July 31 (Yonhap) -- The following is a summary of inter-Korean news this week.

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Defector seems to have swum across border to N. Korea from Gangwha Island

SEOUL, July 27 (Yonhap) -- A North Korean defector is believed to have swum across the border from the western island of Gwanghwa after going through a drain under barbed wire fences to evade South Korean border guards, military officials said Monday.

The border crossing by the 24-year-old man was made known after North Korea revealed Sunday that a "runaway" returned home in the border city of Kaesong with coronavirus symptoms and leader Kim Jong-un blocked off the entire city and implemented a state of emergency to prevent the virus from spreading.

South Korea's military came under fire for failing to detect the crossing.

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S. Korea says runaway defector unlikely to have contracted virus, questioning N.K.'s claims

SEOUL, July 27 (Yonhap) -- A North Korean defector suspected to have fled to his communist homeland had neither tested positive for the coronavirus nor come into contact with confirmed patients, health officials said Monday, raising questions about Pyongyang's claims that he came back with virus symptoms.

The North claimed Sunday that the defector returned to his hometown in the border city of Kaesong on July 19 and that multiple tests showed he is suspected of virus infection. The North also said leader Kim Jong-un declared a state of emergency for the region and blocked off the city to prevent the virus from spreading.

But South Korean health officials said he is unlikely to have contracted the virus.

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New unification minister renews willingness to work with N. Korea to tackle coronavirus

SEOUL, July 30 (Yonhap) -- New Unification Minister Lee In-young said Thursday that South Korea is willing to work with North Korea to prevent a coronavirus outbreak in the border city of Kaesong or anywhere in the communist nation.

Lee made the remark during a visit to the National Cemetery in Seoul after the North said over the weekend that it has declared a state of emergency and sealed off Kaesong after a defector returned home from South Korea with coronavirus symptoms.

"We take the quarantine measures in and around Kaesong seriously and are closely watching the situation," Lee told reporters during the visit to the cemetery in his first public event after taking office earlier this week.

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U.N. rapporteur: Inspection of activist groups should not undermine efforts to improve N.K. rights situation

SEOUL, July 30 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's upcoming inspection of activist groups, including those run by North Korean defectors, should be carried out in a way that does not undermine their efforts to improve the North's human rights situation, a U.N. special rapporteur was quoted as saying Thursday.

Special Rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana made the remark during a video meeting with a senior unification ministry official as the ministry has been preparing to inspect activist groups to see if they are operating in accordance with their declared business purposes.

The inspection plans came after the ministry revoked the licenses for two defector groups accused of sending anti-Pyongyang leaflets in defiance of the government's repeated calls against such activity. North Korea strongly protested the leafleting and even blew up a joint liaison office last month.
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