SEOUL -- A North Korean soldier involved in an extremely rare and dramatic defection to the South was shot six times by his own side as he drove to the heavily guarded border and ran across under a hail of bullets.
The US-led United Nations Command (UNC), which monitors the Panmunjom border truce village where the defection occurred Monday, said the soldier had driven close to the heavily-guarded, military demarcation line separating the two Koreas.
“He then exited the vehicle and continued fleeing south across the line as he was fired upon by other soldiers from North Korea,” the UNC said in a statement.
An official with the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said the North’s border guards fired at least 40 rounds.
A doctor treating the soldier — who was helicoptered to a hospital for emergency surgery — said he had been shot half-a-dozen times and sustained a serious stomach injury.
“He has at least six gunshot wounds on his body and the penetrating wound in the abdomen is the most serious”, the doctor, Lee Cook-Jong, told reporters.
It is very rare for the North’s troops to defect at the truce village, a major tourist attraction bisected by the demarcation line and the only part of the frontier where forces from the two sides come face-to-face.
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.