North Korea

North Korean soldier shot while defecting to South Korea at Panmunjom border village

The soldier crossed to the South side of the Joint Security Area at Panmunjom, the only portion of the border demilitarised zone where forces from the two sides come face-to-face

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 November, 2017, 5:42pm
UPDATED : Monday, 13 November, 2017, 11:03pm

A North Korean soldier defected to the South on Monday after being shot and wounded by the North Korean military, South Korea said.

The soldier was found on the south side of the border village of Panmunjom, about 50 metres from the Military Demarcation Line, wounded in his shoulder and elbow, according to a South Korean defence ministry official.

He defected from a North Korean guard post nearby and was being treated in hospital.

“The defector was urgently transferred to hospital in a helicopter of the United Nations Command, and there was no exchange of fire with our side,” the ministry official said.

“Since it was an area exposed to the North, we had to crawl toward there to get him out.”

There was no immediate comment on the incident from North Korea.

No personal details have been released but the North Korean soldier’s uniform suggested he was low-ranking, Yonhap said.

A Joint Chiefs of Staff official said the soldier had regained consciousness but declined comment on whether his injuries were life-threatening.

There has been no exchange of gunfire between the two sides, but the South’s military said it has raised its level of alertness against any North Korean provocations.

No tourists were in the Joint Security Area at the time because such tours do not run on Monday, said a spokesman for United States Forces Korea which approves the visits.

While on average more than 1,000 North Koreans defect to South Korea every year, most travel via China and it is unusual for a North Korean to cross the land border dividing the two Koreas, which have been in a technical state of war since their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

Over the decades since the peninsula was divided, dozens of North Korean soldiers have fled to the South through the DMZ, which extends for two kilometres either side of the actual borderline.

Two North Korean soldiers defected to the South in June after crossing the frontier at another location.

The defection comes amid tension between the two Koreas, and between the United States and the North.

North Korea has this year been boosting its nuclear and missile capacity with a series of tests as it faces off with US President Donald Trump who has vowed to stop it from being able to hit the mainland United States with a nuclear weapon.

North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear bomb test on September 3, but has not launched any missiles since firing one over Japan on September 15, the longest such lull this year.

Reuters, Agence France-Presse