N/Korean soldier defects with bullet wounds


North Korean soldiers in live fire drills

A North Korean soldier has defected to South Korea by crossing the only part of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) where soldiers from both sides stand face-to-face, officials in Seoul said Monday.

The soldier was shot by his own forces as he fled through the Joint Security Area (JSA) in the border village of Panmunjom, the South Korean Defence Ministry said.

He was wounded in the shoulder and elbow, but there was no indication of how serious his injuries were. The defector was taken by helicopter to hospital to receive treatment, officials said.

After hearing gunfire, the South Korean military found the bleeding man on the southern side of the JSA 25 minutes later, Yonhap news agency reported.

“We are increasing alertness against the possibility of North Korean provocations,” Yonhap quoted a South Korean military official as saying.

Due to the proximity of the two rival forces at the JSA, soldiers from authoritarian, secretive North Korea are said to be hand-picked for their loyalty in order to reduce the chance of defections, Yonhap reported.

North Korean soldiers occasionally try to cross the heavily fortified DMZ to the democratic South, but at 240 kilometres long and about 4 kilometres wide, it is more common for North Koreans to escape first to China, and then to South Korea.(dpa/NAN)