North Korean sol­diers shoot com­rade as he de­fects across the bor­der.

National Post (National Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - JU­LIAN RYALL

TOKYO • A sol­dier from North Korea made a rare suc­cess­ful es­cape across the heav­ily for­ti­fied bor­der with the South Mon­day.

The North Korean guard sta­tioned within the Joint Se­cu­rity Area (JSA) fled across the bor­der into the South in the early hours. He was shot in the shoul­der and el­bow by fel­low guards.

The sol­dier was air­lifted by a United Na­tions he­li­copter to a hos­pi­tal but his in­juries are not be­lieved to be life-threat­en­ing.

The in­jured sol­dier was found by South Korean troops on the South’s side of the fron­tier af­ter sev­eral bursts of gun­fire.

The de­fec­tion came at a time of height­ened ten­sion over North Korea’s nu­clear weapons pro­gram, and could es­ca­late an­i­mosi­ties be­tween the ri­val coun­tries. North Korea has typ­i­cally ac­cused South Korea of en­tic­ing its cit­i­zens to de­fect, some­thing the South de­nies.

About 30,000 North Kore­ans have de­fected to South Korea since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, but most travel through China.

At the week­end, a North Korean de­fec­tor made a heart­break­ing plea for in­ter­na­tional help to save his wife and young child from ex­e­cu­tion af­ter they were caught try­ing to flee the pariah state into China.

Tae­won Lee, 29, said he last heard from his wife and four-year-old son — whose iden­ti­ties he wanted to pro­tect — on Nov 4, in a snatched tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion when she told him they had been ar­rested in China.

“I al­most fainted. I col­lapsed on the floor for hours,” he said, speak­ing from the South Korean cap­i­tal, Seoul. Since then he has pleaded with the South’s for­eign min­istry for help, but their diplo­matic efforts to lo­cate his fam­ily have yielded few re­sults.

The con­se­quences of de­por­ta­tion would be dire. “They will def­i­nitely be sent to a prison camp. In the worst case, they will be killed,” said Lee. “Even if they for­give my son, his back­ground will be that his fa­ther went to South Korea, his mother was in a prison camp or ex­e­cuted.

He will have no fam­ily, maybe he will be­come a street child.”

De­spite build­ing ev­i­dence of hu­man rights atroc­i­ties, there has been a re­ported surge in de­por­ta­tions back to the North from China, the most com­mon es­cape route for de­fec­tors.

Lee fled to South Korea two years ago, choos­ing to make the ini­tial jour­ney alone as it was so dan­ger­ous.

When he safely reached Seoul, he saved the money for his wife and son to join him, but she was too ter­ri­fied to leave be­cause of the penal­ties for be­ing caught.

Ha­rass­ment from se­cu­rity agen­cies forced her to take the risk of cross­ing into China’s Liaon­ing prov­ince on Oct 17. Po­lice ar­rested them in Shenyang on Nov 4.

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