North Korean defector was shot six times by border troops: UNC
14 November, 2017, 10:29 | Author: Oscar Goodwin
The North Korean soldier shot while defecting to the South on Monday was racing towards the border in a auto when a wheel came loose, forcing him to escape on foot under fire from North Korean soldiers, the South Korean government and military said.
"Since it was an area exposed to the North, we had to crawl toward there to get him out".
The soldier, thought to be low ranking, was shot in the shoulder and elbow and was picked up bleeding on the South side of a portion of the border known as the Joint Security Area (JSA).
The Joint Chiefs have said the military remains on alert for any provocations from the North.
The rare defection took place as a joint naval exercise, which included three American aircraft carriers and seven South Korean warships, was being carried out in waters off South Korea's east coast. An estimated 1,000 people flee Kim Jong Un's volatile regime each year, but going through the DMZ - fortified with land mines, barbed wires and machine guns - have been extremely rare because of the unsafe conditions. From January to August 2017, 780 North Koreans escaped to South Korea, according to officials in Seoul.
It's the first time since a 2007 exercise near Guam that three U.S. carrier strike groups are operating together in the Western Pacific, according to the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet.
At Panmunjom, once an obscure farming village inside the 2 1/2-mile-wide DMZ that separating the rivaling countries, North Korean soldiers wearing lapel pins with the images of late North Korean leaders often use binoculars to monitor visitors from the South.
South Korean officials have yet to identify where the soldier came from or what his intentions were.
The 1953 ceasefire ending Korean War hostilities was signed at Panmunjom, and it has since hosted numerous rounds of inter-Korean talks - sometimes held in huts that straddle both sides of the border line. More than a million mines are believed to be buried inside the zone.
The incident, which happened in broad daylight around 4:00pm, comes at a time of heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula over the North's nuclear weapons programme. In September, it carried out its sixth and largest nuclear test - of what it described as "a hydrogen bomb".
"The defector was urgently transferred to a hospital in a helicopter of the United Nations Command, and there was no exchange of fire with our side", a South Korean defense ministry official told Reuters.
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