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Seoul: North Korea’s Firing at Defecting Soldier Violates Armistice Agreement

Seoul: North Korea’s Firing at Defecting Soldier Violates Armistice Agreement

Monday, 27 November, 2017 - 11:30
North Korean soldiers keep watch toward the south next to a spot where a North Korean defected crossing the border on November 13, at the truce village of Panmunjom, South Korea. (Reuters)

South Korea condemned on Monday North Korea for opening fire at one of its soldier, who recently defected to the South, saying that it violated the armistice agreement between the two neighbors.

On a visit to the border area where the shooting took place, Defense Minister Song Young-moo warned Pyongyang against doing so again.

He commended South Korean soldiers at the Joint Security Area (JSA), in the so-called Truce Village of Panmunjom, in the demilitarized zone, for rescuing the defector.

A North Korean border guard briefly crossed the border with the South in the chase for the defector on November 13 - a video released by the UN Command (UNC) in Seoul showed - a violation of the ceasefire accord between North and South at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

“Shooting towards the South at a defecting person, that’s a violation of the armistice agreement,” Song said.

“Crossing the military demarcation line, a violation. Carrying automatic rifles (in the JSA), another violation,” he added as he stood near where South Korean soldiers had found the defector, collapsed and bleeding from his wounds.

“North Korea should be informed this sort of thing should never occur again.”

The defector, a North Korean soldier identified only by his surname, Oh, was critically wounded but has been recovering in hospital in South Korea.

The incident comes at a time of heightened tension between North Korea and the international community over its nuclear weapons program, but the North has not publicly responded to the defection at the sensitive border.

Since the defection, North Korea has reportedly replaced guards stationed there. Soldiers have fortified a section of the area seen aimed at blocking any more defections by digging a trench and planting trees.

As Song was speaking 10 meters away from the trees North Korean soldiers planted, four North Korean soldiers were spotted listening closely.

South Korean military officials pointed out two bullet holes in a metal wall on a South Korean building, from North Korean shots fired at Oh as he ran.

Oh has undergone several operations in hospital to remove bullets. His lead surgeon, Lee Cook-jong, told Reuters his patient has suffers from nightmares about being returned to the North.

In South Korea, six soldiers, three South Korean and three American, were given awards by the US Forces Korea last week in recognition for their efforts in rescuing the defector.

After inspecting the site on Monday, Song met troops stationed there for lunch and praised them for acting “promptly and appropriately”.

Meanwhile, South Korea has reportedly started broadcasting on loudspeakers into North Korea news of Oh’s defection and recovery as part of Seoul's psychological warfare against Pyongyang, said South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

South Korean military officials have declined to confirm that.

The wild escape, shooting, subsequent surgeries and slow recovery of the soldier have riveted South Korea. Pyongyang has said nothing about the defection, which is a huge embarrassment because Pyongyang claims all defections are the result of Seoul either kidnapping or enticing North Koreans to flee.

The loudspeakers, reportedly installed at about a dozen sites near the border dividing the two Koreas, were not audible at the Panmunjom border village inside the JSA.

North Korea hates South Korea's border broadcasts. The South briefly resumed the broadcasts in August 2015 after an 11-year break, after Seoul blamed Pyongyang for land mine explosions that maimed two South Korean soldiers.

The broadcasts stopped after the rivals reached a settlement, but reportedly resumed in January 2016 after a North Korean nuclear test.

The broadcasts typically include popular South Korean songs, world news and information about the poor economic and human rights conditions in the North.

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