(KSLA) - A Louisiana man has been arrested for allegedly trying to enter communist North Korea for political purposes, the Korean news agency Yonhap and other media outlets report.
"We are aware of media reports regarding the detention of a U.S. citizen in the Republic of Korea, near the border with North Korea," a State Department official told KSLA News 12.
"Generally speaking, when we are notified of the detention of a U.S. citizen, we will seek to visit the individual as soon as possible. We stand ready to provide appropriate consular services. Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment."
Yonhap cites authorities as saying that the 58-year-old, identified only as "A," came to the South Korea three days ago and was seized at 9:55 a.m. Monday as he trespassed without a permit onto the northern side of the Civilian Control Line about 39 miles north of Seoul.
People must have a permit to enter the 2.5-mile wide, 150-mile-long buffer zone that divides the peninsula and is the site of several tourist attractions, according to Stars and Stripes.
The no man's land was drawn just below the Demilitarized Zone bisecting the two Koreas from the west to the east after the Korean War in 1954 to to prevent skirmishes and protect military facilities and operations there.
The Louisiana man was arrested by South Korean police about an hour after a villager found him in the Baekhak Ward of the border county of Yeoncheon and reported him to the Army in the region.
A police officer in the area said the man traveled to South Korea on Nov. 3, contradicting reports that he had arrived three days ago, Stars and Stripes reports.
The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Kwon Ki-hyun, a spokesman for the South Korean defense ministry, confirmed broad details about the incident involving the man but deferred specific questions about him 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.
A U.S. Embassy official reportedly told the Los Angeles Times that 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.
A spokesman for the Blue House, South Korea's presidential office, confirmed basic information but declined to elaborate.
MSN, citing Business Insider, reports that the Louisiana man was arrested while trying to cross the demilitarized border zone to defect into North Korea "for political reasons."
But investigators later said they had determined that he had no communist connections, according to Stars and Stripes.
The authoritarian state has some allure among leftists in the United States who may be deceived by propaganda from Pyongyang that depicts the country as a socialist paradise, MSN reports.
South Korean police, the army and the country's National Intelligence Service are investigating the incident.