October 22, 1997 in Nation/World

N. Korea Frees Border-Crossing Farmers

Mary Jordan Washington Post
 

North Korea agreed to return two South Korean farmers seized Friday near the border that divides North and South Korea, easing tensions over what was assumed to be the first kidnapping of civilians along the border in 20 years.

The details of the farmers’ arrest are still unclear, but the 66-year-old woman and her 41-year-old son said Tuesday that they had accidentally crossed into land controlled by North Korea inside the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). They had been held in North Korea since Friday and were turned over to U.N. Command officials just before noon Tuesday after telling officials they had inadvertently crossed into enemy land.

On Friday, officials said they believed that a dozen North Korean soldiers had entered terrain controlled by the south inside the DMZ and abducted the farmers.

Tuesday, officials from both Koreas met in the area inside the Demilitarized Zone where the farmers were arrested and held a joint investigation. Afterward, the two, who live in the southern half of the DMZ, said they had crossed into the northern half of the DMZ accidentally, and they were promptly freed.

There is no fence or wall separating North and South Korea. Instead, small signs, often rusted, difficult to see and spaced far apart, trace the 151-mile-long military demarcation line that divides the 2-1/2-mile-wide Demilitarized Zone. North Korea controls the area north of the line, and South Korea controls the land south of it.

This border area is often called the most dangerous in the world because of the vast number of soldiers and artillery surrounding it and the land mines that carpet it.


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