Defecting North Korean soldier critical after escape in hail of bullets

Defecting North Korean soldier critical after escape in hail of bullets
From Reuters - November 14, 2017

SEOUL (Reuters) - A North Korean soldier is expected to survive critical wounds he received when his old comrades fired a hail of bullets at him as he made a defection dash to South Korea, the Souths government and military said on Tuesday.

The soldier had on Monday sped towards the border in a peace village in the heavily guarded demilitarized zone, in a four-wheel drive vehicle.

But when a wheel came loose, he fled on foot as four North Korean soldiers fired about 40 rounds at him, said Suh Wook, chief director of operations at South Koreas Joint Chiefs of Staff, briefing lawmakers.

Until this morning, we heard he had no consciousness and was unable to breathe on his own but his life can be saved, Suh said.

Surgeons had removed five bullets from the soldiers body, leaving two inside, Suh added, to murmurs from lawmakers who said the soldiers escape was right out of a movie.

The soldier took cover behind a South Korean structure in a Joint Security Area (JSA) inside the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas.

South Korean and U.S. soldiers, fearing more North Korean fire, later crawled to him to rescue him, the United Nations Command said in a separate statement.

North Korea has not said anything about the soldier. Its military had not given any indication of unusual movements on Tuesday, the Souths military said.

While on average more than 1,000 North Koreans defect to the South 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.

The U.N. Command, in place since the end of the war, said an investigation into the incident was being conducted.

South Korean Defence Minister Song Young-moo said it was the first time North Korean soldiers had fired towards the Souths side of the JSA, prompting complaints from some lawmakers that the Souths military should have returned fire.



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