In a scene straight out of an action movie, a North Korean soldier was shot seven times while escaping the Hermit Kingdom. He is currently recuperating in South Korea.
(Seoul, South Korea) A North Korean soldier is fighting for his life in a South Korean hospital after making a daring escape across the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that separates the two countries. During his Monday morning run to freedom, his North Korean brothers-in-arms fired an estimated 40 shots at him, seven of which hit their target.
The United Nations is investigating to see if any North Korean troops crossed over the military demarcation line during their pursuit, as this area is under the control of the United Nations Command (UNC). The defecting soldier apparently tried to cross the DMZ in a military vehicle but ended up becoming stuck. He then fled on foot, at which point the North Koreans opened fire with a barrage of pistol and rifle gunfire. Despite being struck numerous times, the soldier managed to reach cover and concealment, where South Korean soldiers found and extracted him to a local hospital.
North Korea has yet to issue a statement on the defector; previously they have claimed that those fleeing North Korea had actually been kidnapped by South Korean agents.
As of Wednesday, the unnamed defector has undergone two rounds of surgery to repair damage from the gunshot wounds. He is currently in critical condition, but officials have stated they are hopeful that he will survive.
“There will need to be some questioning on why he defected after his treatment is over,” said Baik Tae-hyun, Unification Ministry spokesman.
The soldier’s name and rank are still being withheld from the public; it is currently unknown if the South Korean government knows the specific reason for his defection. This marks the third military defector in 2017. Prior to this year, there had only been four others in the last five years. The North Korean military is estimated to have over 1.2 million soldiers on active duty, with an estimated 7.7 million in the reserves.
The UNC is currently conducting an investigation into the North Korean gunfire, as it likely entered into South Korea. They noted that the South Korean soldiers did not return fire, indicating that under UNC rules of engagement they did not feel directly threatened by the North Korean gunfire. Under UNC rules, South Korean troops are required to fire warning shots if North Korean troops fire their weapons across the military demarcation line. However, the area has extremely dense foliage and the situation was likely over before the South Koreans could determine the exact situation. Apparently, three North Korean soldiers were in the truce village of Panmunjom immediately preceding the defector’s military vehicle race to the south.
On the other side of the coin, a 58-year-old American man was reportedly arrested in Yeoncheon County for apparently trying to enter into North Korea. South Korea’s National Intelligence Service confirmed that an American had been detained for trying to enter North Korea, but no further details were released.