North Korea defection: Video shows soldier make daring border escape | News | DW | 22.11.2017
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North Korea defection: Video shows soldier make daring border escape

The UN Command has released a video showing the dramatic scenes at the border as a North Korean soldier defected. As they tried to stop him, the soldier's colleagues may have violated the terms of the Korean War truce.

Watch video 00:59

North Korean soldier makes daring escape

The North Korean army violated the terms of the 1953 UN Armistice Agreement when it tried to stop one of its soldiers defecting to the South, the United Nations Command said Wednesday.

Soldiers fired about 40 rounds across the military demarcation line that divides the two Koreas, with one soldier even crossing the line, Colonel Chad G. Carroll, a spokesman for the UN Command, told reporters.

The UNC has "requested a meeting (with North Korea) to discuss our investigation and measures to prevent future such violations," Carroll said.

A vehicle carries a defecting North Korean soldier along a road in the Demilitarized Zone

The soldier sped towards the border in a military jeep

What can be seen in the video of the escape?

A video released by the UNC in Seoul showed the dramatic dash for freedom at the Panmunjom truce village, the only part of the border where forces from the two sides come face-to-face.

  • The video shows a military vehicle speeding towards the border before seeming to get bogged down
  • The driver disembarks and runs in the direction of the Southern side of the border
  • Several North Korean soldiers then run towards the abandoned vehicle and open fire, hitting the escapee five or six times
  • Three South Korean troops, including the deputy commander of the border security unit, are then seen crawling to drag him to safety
  • Surprisingly, North and South Korean soldiers did not exchange fire.

This was the first shooting in the area in three decades and occurred as tensions between the US and North Korea run high after a series of missile and nuclear tests aimed at deploying an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to US cities.

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South Korea and US soldiers stand guard during an event to commemorate the 64th Anniversary of the Korean War armistice agreement in the the Joint Security Area

South Korea and US soldiers stand guard at Panmunjom

What condition is the soldier in?

The soldier was flown by a US military helicopter to a hospital in Suwon, south of the capital Seoul. After two operations to extract the bullets, doctors said on Wednesday that his breathing is now stable and unassisted.

"He is fine," lead surgeon Lee Cook-Jong said at a press conference. "He is not going to die."

"As the patient is showing signs of depression due to intense psychological stress following two rounds of major surgeries, he will undergo tests for post-traumatic stress disorder.

"The reason that he defected, risking death and facing a barrage of gunshots, was because he had positive hopes about South Korea."

The hospital said in a statement that the patient requires intensive care, detailed tests and observation as there is a chance his condition may worsen due to infections of his bullet wounds. A serious case of parasites have also complicated his treatment.

The soldier is 1.7 meters (5 feet, 7 inches) tall but weighs just 60 kilograms (132 pounds), the hospital said.

Lee said he has had extensive conversation with the North Korean man who had told him he defected to the South of his own free will.

No comment from the North

North Korea hasn't responded and its official media has not reported on the case.

The North has in the past accused South Korea of kidnapping or enticing North Koreans to defect.

About 30,000 North Koreans have fled to South Korea, mostly via China, since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

jbh/rt (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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