Dramatic video shows escape, shooting of NoKor defector
SEOUL, South Korea – A North Korean soldier raced for the border in a jeep and then on foot before his former comrades shot him at least five times, as he limped towards South Korea, where he collapsed and was dragged to safety by southern soldiers on a dramatic video released on Wednesday by the United States-led United Nations command.
The defection, subsequent surgeries, and slow recovery of the soldier have riveted South Korea, but it would be a huge embarrassment for North Korea, which claims that all defections are the result of rival Seoul kidnapping or enticing North Koreans to defect. Pyongyang has said nothing about the defection so far.
North Korea’s actions during the defector’s escape last November 13 at Panmunjom violated the armistice agreement ending the Korean War because North Korean soldiers fired across and physically crossed the border in pursuit of the soldier, Col. Chad G. Carroll, a spokesman for the UN command, told reporters in a live TV briefing.
The video showed the soldier speeding down a tree-lined road, headlights on, past dun-colored fields and shocked North Korean soldiers, who subsequently ran after him. The soldier crashed the jeep into a ditch near the line that divides North Korea and South Korea and the blue huts familiar to anyone who has toured the area, which is the part of the border where North and South Korean soldiers face each other at their closest distance – just meters (feet) apart.
There were no tour groups at the time of the defection, Carroll said.
Soldiers from North Korea sprinted to the area, as they fired handguns and AK rifles – about 40 rounds, South Korea said – at the defector. A North Korean soldier purportedly hurried across the dividing line before running back to the northern side.
South Korean soldiers then crawled up to the defector, who has fallen injured in a mass of leaves against a small wall. They dragged him to safety as North Korean troops begin to gather on their side of the line.
A UN Command helicopter later transported him to the Ajou University Medical Center near Seoul.
Surprisingly, North and South Korean soldiers did not exchange fire in the first shooting in the area in more than three decades.
The UN command said North Korea violated the armistice by “one, firing weapons across the MDL, and two, by actually crossing the MDL temporarily,” referring to the military demarcation line that divides the two Koreas. KPA stands for the North’s Korean People’s Army.
A UN Command statement said officials notified North Korea’s military of these violations and requested a meeting to discuss the investigation results and measures to prevent future such violations.
About 30,000 North Koreans have fled to South Korea, mostly via China, since the end of the 1950-1953 Korean War.
After undergoing two surgeries last week to repair damage to his internal organ and other injuries, the soldier-defector is now conscious and no longer relies on a breathing machine, according to hospital official Shin Mi-jeong.
While his condition is improving, doctors said they plan to keep him at the intensive care unit for at least several more days to guard against possible infections.
The JSA, jointly overseen by the American-led UN Command and by North Korea, is inside the four-kilometer-wide Demilitarized Zone, which has been the de facto border between North Korea and South Korea since the war.
While treating the wounds, surgeons removed dozens of parasites from the soldier’s ruptured small intestine, including presumed roundworms that were as long as 27 centimeters (10.6 inches), which may reflect poor nutrition and health in North Korea’s military. The soldier is 1.7 meters (5 feet, 7 inches) tall but weighs just 60 kilograms (132 pounds). /kga
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