De­fect­ing soldier shot 5 times by com­rades

The Welland Tribune - - WORLD NEWS - HYUNG- JIN KIM

SEOUL, Korea, Repub­lic Of — 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 Tues­day.

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 five­hour op­er­a­tion for the gun­shot wounds he suf­fered dur­ing his escape across the Joint Se­cu­rity Area. His per­sonal de­tails and mo­tive for defection are un­known and his ex­act med­i­cal con­di­tion is un­clear.

South Korea’s mil­i­tary said he suf­fered in­juries in his in­ter­nal or­gans but wasn’t in life- threat­en­ing con­di­tion. But the Ajou Univer­sity Med­i­cal Cen­ter near Seoul said the soldier was re­ly­ing on a breath­ing ma­chine af­ter doc­tors re­moved the bul­lets. Lee Guk- jong, a doc­tor who leads Ajou’s med­i­cal team for the soldier, de­scribed his pa­tient’s con­di­tion as “very dan­ger­ous” and said the next 10 days might de­ter­mine whether he re­cov­ers.

On Mon­day, he first drove a mil­i­tary jeep but left the ve­hi­cle when one of its wheels fell into a ditch. He then fled across the JSA, with fel­low sol­diers chas­ing and fir­ing at him, South Korea’s mil­i­tary said, cit­ing un­spec­i­fied sur­veil­lance sys­tems in­stalled in the area.

Suh Wook, chief di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tions for the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, told law­mak­ers that North Korea fired a to­tal of about 40 rounds in a shoot­ing that his of­fice sug­gested started while the soldier was in the jeep.

The solider was found be­neath a pile of leaves on the south­ern side of the JSA and South Korean troops crawled there to re­cover him. A UN Com­mand he­li­copter later trans­ported him to the Ajou med­i­cal cen­tre, ac­cord­ing to South Korean of­fi­cials.

The North’s of­fi­cial me­dia haven’t re­ported the case as of Tues­day af­ter­noon. They have pre­vi­ously ac­cused South Korea of kid­nap­ping or en­tic­ing North Kore­ans to de­fect. About 30,000 North Kore­ans have fled to South Korea, mostly via China, since the end of the 1950- 53 Korean War.

GETTY IMAGES

South Korean med­i­cal doc­tor Lee Cook- Jong, who car­ried out surgery on a North Korean soldier who fled to South Korea, speaks to jour­nal­ists at Ajou Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal in Su­won, south of Seoul, South Korea, on Tues­day.

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