N. Kore­ans fire at de­fec­tor in first shoot­ing at bor­der

The Star Malaysia - - World -

SEOUL: Four North Korean sol­diers fired 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 since 1984, the South’s mil­i­tary said.

South Korean sol­diers did not fire their weapons in re­sponse, but Mon­day’s in­ci­dent oc­curred at a time of high an­i­mos­ity over North Korea’s nu­clear pro­gramme and Py­ongyang has ex­pressed in­tense anger over past de­fec­tions.

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 a life-threat­en­ing con­di­tion.

But an of­fi­cial at the Ajou Univer­sity Med­i­cal Cen­tre near Seoul said the sol­dier was re­ly­ing on a breath­ing ma­chine af­ter the surgery re­moved the bul­lets.

The of­fi­cial, who re­quested ano- nymity cit­ing of­fi­cial rules, said doc­tors plan more surgery and it is too early to know if he is out of dan­ger.

On Mon­day, he first drove a mil­i­tary jeep be­fore he left the ve­hi­cle af­ter 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 40 rounds in a shoot­ing that his of­fice said was be­lieved to have started while the sol­dier was in the jeep.

The solider was found be­neath a pile of leaves and South Korean troops crawled there to re­cover him. A UN Com­mand he­li­copter later trans­ported him to the Ajou Univer­sity Med­i­cal Cen­tre, ac­cord­ing to South Korean of­fi­cials.

The North’s of­fi­cial me­dia hasn’t re­ported about the case, but it pre­vi­ously ac­cused Seoul of kid­nap­ping or en­tic­ing its cit­i­zens to de­fect.

About 30,000 North Kore­ans have fled to South Korea.

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