Here’s Everything We Know About The North Korean Soldier Who Bolted Across The Border Under Fire

REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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The North Korean soldier who escaped into South Korea at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) Monday is in critical condition at a South Korean hospital after suffering multiple gun shot wounds by his comrades.

The Korean People’s Army soldier drove a jeep to the highly militarized border between the two Koreas but was forced to abandoned the vehicle, according to Reuters. The unarmed man jumped from the car and made a mad dash to the border while North Korean guards let loose a hail of gunfire, The Associated Press introduced. Four North Korean border guards, which were handpicked for their loyalty, are believed to have fired around 40 bullets presumably using both handguns and AK-47s.

Only handguns are allowed in the Joint Security Area, a small-strip of land where North and South Korean guards stand face-to-face day in and day out. The North Korean guards chosen to stand watch at the JSA are required to have a “mental armor that cannot be pierced.” As the North Korean soldier who bolted across the line drove to the JSA and defected, he is probably not one of the dedicated loyalists.

The defector was hit five times in the first shooting incident at the JSA in three decades and the first time North Koreans have shot into the South since the armistice, according to the South Korean military, which noticed a “flurry of action” on the northern side as the soldier made his way to the border.

The man made it 50 meters into South Korea, ducking behind a building on the southern side for cover. He then collapsed in the bushes.

He was found by U.S. and South Korean military personnel lying in a pile of leaves on the southern side. A United Nations Command helicopter airlifted the North Korean soldier to the Ajou medical center, where he underwent a five-hour surgery to remove the bullets lodged in his lung, back, elbow, leg, and abdomen, according to the Chosun Ilbo. His intestines reportedly ruptured in several locations.

The wounded soldier who made his blitz across the border is fighting for his life. Whether he lives or dies will be determined in the next ten days. The man’s motive remains unclear, and that will likely be the case until he starts to recover. The soldier is being treated by Dr. Lee Guk-jong, a renowned trauma specialist.

While defections are not uncommon, military defections are unusual, and defections across at JSA are extremely rare. The last defection at the JSA occurred over a decade ago, and in the past six years, there have only been seven military-level defections.

North Korean media has not commented on the latest defection.

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