A North Korean soldier fled to South Korea early on Saturday, the military in Seoul said, the first such defection since a number of guard posts were blown up at the border this week.
South Korean soldiers escorted the defector to safety after finding him moving south of the eastern side of the military demarcation line that bisects the Koreas, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
"A North Korean soldier was detected crossing the military demarcation line" by South Korean troops using surveillance equipment, the military Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement.
"The soldier is safely in our custody," it said. "Related agencies plan to investigate him regarding the details of how he came to the South."
The Joint Chiefs of Staff said it had not observed any unusual activity from North Korean troops in the area where the defection happened.
It comes as the North and South Korea have pushed to implement a wide-ranging military agreement reached in September to reduce tensions across their border.
South Korea’s Defence Ministry said on Friday the Korean militaries completed removing 20 front-line guard posts and land mines from a border area where they plan to start their first-ever joint search for remains of soldiers killed during the 1950-53 Korean War.
The Koreas and the US-led UN. Command recently finished removing firearms and troops from a jointly controlled area at the border village of Panmunjom, and eventually plan to allow tourists to freely move around there.
However, experts downplayed the chances of seeing similar defections.
Martyn Williams, a North Korea analyst, said there was was "still considerable security" along the border.
"It’s not easier for anyone to get close to the border so while this soldier might have seen a chance, it’s probably still an incredibly risky thing to do," he told The Telegraph.
Last November, a North Korean soldier was critically wounded in the jointly controlled area after he fled to the South amid a hail of bullets fired by his former comrades.
More than 30,000 North Korean civilians have fled their homeland but most flee across the porous frontier with China, and rarely across the inter-Korean border which is fortified with minefields and barbed wire.