U.S., South Korean troops praised for res­cu­ing North Korean de­fec­tor

The Mercury News Weekend - - OTHER VIEWS - By Caitlin Dewey

Three Amer­i­can and three South Korean sol­diers were rec­og­nized by se­nior mil­i­tary lead­ers Thurs­day for their roles in res­cu­ing a North Korean de­fec­tor who was shot mul­ti­ple times while flee­ing the coun­try last week.

Video footage of the de­fec­tor’s dar­ing es­cape, which shows him run­ning across the bor­der di­vid­ing the two coun­tries while be­ing pur­sued by North Korean sol­diers, cap­tured global at­ten­tion when it was re­leased Wed­nes­day by the U. S. mil­i­tary com­mand in South Korea.

The­man got to the South Korean side of the bor­der be­fore he col­lapsed fromhis wounds and was dragged to safety by U.S. and South Korean per­son­nel.

“You were all in the range of North Korean fire,” Gen. Kim Byeongjoo, deputy com­man­der of the U.S.-South Korea Com­bined Forces Com­mand, told the troops dur­ing a cer­e­mony at Camp Boni­fas. “It was a pre­car­i­ous sit­u­a­tion . . . [and] a show­case of great lead­er­ship.”

The drama, un­fold­ing Nov. 13, oc­curred as ten­sion among the three coun­tries has soared, with the threat of con­flict driven by of­ten volatile ex­changes be­tween Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

In video footage of the es­cape, the de­fec­tor is seen driv­ing a jeep through the de­mil­i­ta­rized zone, the strip of heav­ily pro­tected land that has long sep­a­rated the two na­tions. Af­ter his ve­hi­cle was stuck in a ditch, the man jumped out and fled south on foot as four North Korean sol­diers gave chase and opened fire on him.

Hit at least five times, he col­lapsed on the South Korean side of the Joint Se­cu­rity Area, the only place where North and South Korean sol­diers di­rectly face each other.

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