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North Korean soldier defects to South

November 13, 2017

A North Korean soldier was shot and wounded as he made it to a South Korean controlled border post. It was a rare defection at the only point where soldiers from the two sides stand just meters from each other.

South Korean soldiers look toward the North Korean side
Image: Getty Images/AFP/J. Martin

A North Korean soldier defected to South Korea on Monday by bolting across the border truce village of Panmunjom, the only place along the heavily-militarized Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) where the two sides stand face-to-face.

The North Korean soldier was shot and wounded by his own side before reaching the section controlled by South Korea. He was taken by helicopter to a hospital.

There was no exchange of gunfire between the two sides, but South Korea said its forces were put on alert.

North Korean soldiers occasionally try to defect across the heavily-fortified DMZ, but it is rare for defections at Panmunjom.

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Unlike the rest of the DMZ, the border post at Panmunjom has no mines or barbed wire and is only separated by a low concrete barrier.

Soldiers from each side stand only a few meters (yards) away from each other.  

South Korea's Yonhap news agency said that soldiers at the border post are often chosen for their loyalty to avoid defections.

More than 30,000 North Koreans have fled the hermit country since it was split 1948. Most attempts to flee are made through China before defectors go to South Korea.

Separately on Monday, South Korean police arrested a 58-year-old American man from Louisiana in a restricted zone apparently trying to reach North Korea.

Yonhap reported the American man wanted to cross to the North for "political purposes."

He is being investigated by the army, intelligence services and police.

cw/rt (AFP, AP, dpa)

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