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North Korean Soldier Shot while Defecting to South

North Korean Soldier Shot while Defecting to South

Monday, 13 November, 2017 - 11:00
A South Korean soldier stands on a road linked to North Korea at a military checkpoint in Paju near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) dividing the two Koreas on April 3, 2013. (Jung Yeon-Jejung/AFP/Getty Images)

A North Korean soldier was shot and wounded by his own side Monday while defecting to South Korea at the border truce village of Panmunjom, Seoul said.

The soldier was shot in the shoulder and elbow and was picked up bleeding on the South side of a portion of the border known as the Joint Security Area.

It is rare for the North's troops to defect at the truce village, a major tourist attraction and the only part of the frontier where forces from the two sides come face-to-face.

"Our military has taken in a North Korean soldier after he crossed from a North Korea post towards our Freedom House," Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement, referring to a building on the South side of the village which is bisected by the borderline.

An JCS official quoted by Yonhap news agency said the soldier was evacuated to a private hospital by a UN helicopter.

The official said the South's soldiers heard a gunshot and then retrieved the unarmed and bleeding soldier in the mid-afternoon.

No personal details have been released but his uniform suggested he was low-ranking, Yonhap said.

The JCS official said the soldier had regained consciousness but declined comment on whether his injuries were life-threatening.

Over the decades since the peninsula was divided, dozens of North Korean soldiers have fled to the South through the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) along the rest of the border.

Two North Korean soldiers came over to the South in June after crossing the frontier.

More than 30,000 North Korean civilians have fled their homeland since the two nations came into being in 1948. But it is very rare for civilians to cross the closely guarded border with the South, which is fortified with minefields and barbed wire.

Most flee across the North's porous frontier with China and then move on to a third country to seek passage to South Korea. 

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