World

Escaped North Korean soldier fights for life after being shot crossing DMZ

Escaped North Korean soldier fights for life after being shot crossing DMZ

The stunning escape occurred Monday at a jointly controlled area that is the only point where soldiers from the two sides face each other in the Demilitarized Zone.

A United Nations agency said today the North Korean soldier who crossed over to South Korea on Monday was "shot six times by North Korean border troops" as he made his way across the heavily guarded border separating the two countries.

The soldier shot and injured by the North Korean side while defecting from a military post in front of Panmungak, the main building managed by North Korea in the Joint Security Area, the JCS said in a statement. The US has around 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea.

Separately, Suh Wook, a senior JCS official, told lawmakers that Seoul's military believes four North Korean soldiers fired about 40 shots toward the defector, who appeared to have been hit at least five times.

These were the first gunshots fired at the truce village of Panmunjom in 33 years and the first defection of a North Korean soldier since 2007.

"He crossed from a North Korea post towards our [South Korean] Freedom House", the South said in a statement.

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The defection came less than a week after President Donald Trump made his first official visit to South Korea amid soaring tensions over the growing nuclear and missile threat from the North.

About 30,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, but most travel through China.

"The military has raised its alertness against the North Korean military's possible provocations and is maintaining its full readiness posture", the official said.

He was shot in the shoulder and elbow and was taken to a South Korean hospital, the Defence Ministry said.

At Panmunjom, once an obscure farming village inside the 2 1/2-mile-wide DMZ that separating the rivaling countries, North Korean soldiers wearing lapel pins with the images of late North Korean leaders often use binoculars to monitor visitors from the South. That prompted Washington to send nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to intimidate the North before the adversaries pulled back from the brink of conflict.


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