Forty shots fired at de­fec­tor

The Australian - - WORLD - SEOUL: AP

Four North Korean sol­diers fired about 40 rounds at a com­rade flee­ing into South Korea and hit him five times in the first shoot­ing at the jointly con­trolled area of the heav­ily for­ti­fied bor­der in more than 30 years, the South’s mil­i­tary said yes­ter­day.

South Korean sol­diers did not fire their weapons, but Mon­day’s in­ci­dent oc­curred at a time of high an­i­mos­ity over North Korea’s nu­clear pro­gram.

The sol­dier is be­ing treated at a South Korean hos­pi­tal af­ter a five-hour op­er­a­tion for the gun­shot wounds he suf­fered dur­ing his es­cape across the Joint Se­cu­rity Area.

The Ajou Univer­sity Med­i­cal Cen­tre near Seoul said the sol­dier was re­ly­ing on a breath­ing ma­chine af­ter the surgery re­moved the bul­lets. Sur­geon Lee Guk-jong de­scribed his pa­tient’s con­di­tion as “very dan­ger­ous”.

On Mon­day, he first drove a mil­i­tary jeep but left the ve­hi­cle when one of its wheels ran into a ditch. He then fled across the JSA, with fel­low sol­diers chas­ing and fir­ing at him.

Suh Wook, chief di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tions for the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, told MPs that North Korea fired a to­tal of about 40 rounds in a shoot­ing that started while the sol­dier was in the jeep. The sol­dier was found be­neath a pile of leaves on the south­ern side of the JSA and South Korean troops crawled there to re­cover him.

About 30,000 North Kore­ans have fled to South Korea, mostly via China, since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

The JSA is jointly over­seen by the Amer­i­can-led UN Com­mand and by North Korea, with South Korean and North Korean bor­der guards fac­ing each other me­tres apart. It is in­side the 4km-wide Demil­i­tarised Zone and in­cludes the truce vil­lage of Pan­munjom.

Mon­day’s in­ci­dent was the first shoot­ing at the JSA since North Korean and UN sol­diers traded gun­fire when a Soviet cit­i­zen de­fected by sprint­ing to the South Korean sec­tor of the JSA in 1984. In 1976, North Korean sol­diers axed two Amer­i­can army of­fi­cers to death.

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