A North Korean man who crossed the heavily fortified border with the South has said he wants to defect, according to Seoul officials on Thursday.
The man was taken into custody the day before in the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas, just hours after he was spotted crossing barbed wire fences installed along the border -- prompting an urgent search operation.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said Thursday authorities have launched an investigation into how the man managed to cross the frontier.
JCS spokesman Kim Joon-rak:
"I understand the person has expressed his willingness to defect. I am not able to provide more details, as the related agency's investigation is still ongoing."
Kim said border controls were being further examined -- after the search for the man revealed that parts of the fences equipped with electronic monitors were found damaged, possibly by typhoons.
He added that there was no sign of unusual movement by North Korean troops.
The attempted defection comes just as Seoul reopens tours to the southern part of the DMZ.
The tours had been suspended in October of last year after an outbreak in North Korea of African swine fever.
The area has seen several armed clashes, but also served as a venue for key events between the Koreas, including some of the most recent summits between its leaders.