Fleeing soldier to survive hail of bullets
North Korean military fires on defecting countryman
A North Korean soldier was expected to survive critical wounds he received when his old comrades fired at him as he made a defection dash to South Korea.
A North Korean soldier was expected to survive critical wounds he received when his old comrades fired a hail of bullets at him as he made a defection dash to South Korea, the South’s government and military said on Tuesday.
On Monday, the soldier sped towards the border in the heavily guarded demilitarised zone in a four-wheel-drive vehicle. But when a wheel came loose, he fled on foot as four North Korean soldiers fired about 40 rounds at him, the chief director of operations at South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff, Suh Wook, told legislators. “Until this morning, we heard he had no consciousness and was unable to breathe on his own but his life can be saved,” Suh said.
Surgeons had removed five bullets from the soldier’s body, leaving two inside, Suh added, to murmurs from legislators, who said the soldier’s escape was “right out of a movie”.
The soldier took cover behind a South Korean structure in a joint security area inside the demilitarised zone between the two Koreas.
South Korean and US soldiers, fearing more North Korean fire, later crawled to him to rescue him, the UN Command said in a separate statement.
North Korea has not said anything about the soldier.
Its military had not given any indication of unusual movements on Tuesday, the South’s military said.
While on average more than 1,000 North Koreans defect to the South every year, most travel via China and it is unusual for a North Korean to cross the land border dividing the two Koreas, which have been in a technical state of war since their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.
The UN Command, which has been in place since the end of the war, said an investigation was being conducted.
South Korean Defence Minister Song Young-moo said it was the first time North Korean soldiers had fired towards the South’s side of the joint security area, prompting complaints from some legislators that the South’s military should have returned fire.
A South Korean military spokesman said military operations at the joint security area were usually conducted under the orders of the UN Command, which is, in turn, under orders from the US military.
The soldier, who was not armed, was flown in a UN Command helicopter to an operating theatre, where doctors began working to save him. South Korean officials have yet to identify where the soldier came from or what his intentions were.
Lee Cook-jong, the surgeon in charge of the soldier’s care at the Ajou University Hospital, told reporters he was suffering from critical intestinal damage.
Hospital officials were under strict security agency orders not to talk to media, workers there said.
Another country: A man looks through binoculars towards North Korea on Tuesday from a South Korean observation post in Paju near the demilitarised zone dividing the two Koreas