Forty shots fired at defector
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.