DMZ – A North Korean soldier defected through the Joint Security Area (JSA) in Panmunjom on Monday afternoon, and was wounded by bullets fired by his fellow soldiers trying to get him to stop.
The North Korean soldier was spotted sprinting from a guard post in the direction of Freedom House, located in the truce village of Panmunjom at the inter-Korean border, around 3:31 p.m., according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).
The North Korean military opened fire at the escaping soldier, who was shot in the process of defection and wounded in the elbow and shoulder.
Because the North’s shots did not cross over into the South, the military here did not fire back.
South Korean soldiers at guard posts in the JSA heard multiple gunshots from the North Korean side and kept watch with surveillance equipment.
The JCS said that the South Korean Army heard the gunshots and bolstered the watch condition, or watchcon, its intelligence surveillance posture in monitoring the North’s military activities.
At around 3:56 p.m., around 50 meters (164 feet) south of the military demarcation line (MDL) in the Joint Security Area, a bleeding North Korean soldier collapsed on the ground near the Freedom House and was discovered and retrieved by the South’s soldiers.
The wounded soldier was evacuated by a UN helicopter and transferred to a hospital for treatment. He was unarmed at the time of his defection.
The JCS said the North Korea military has not shown any unusual movements, but the South has strengthened its alertness posture.
The JCS said that it is in the process of verifying the identity of the soldier and investigating him.
A North Korean soldier defected to the South through the demilitarized zone in Gangwon last June.
A deadly firing incident occurred at Panmunjom on Nov. 23, 1984, when a 22-year-old Soviet defector, Vasily Yakovlevich Matuzok, bolted across the DMZ from the North to the South seeking asylum.
His defection caused North Korean and U.S. and South Korean soldiers of the United Nations Command to open fire at each other. A South Korean soldier was killed and a U.S. serviceman injured in the clash.
There were two other defections at the JSA in 1998 and 2007.
BY SARAH KIM