N. Koreans fire at defector in first shooting at border
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.