Word of a North Korean soldier’s mad dash to freedom last November has finally made it to the North Korean people.
While news of North Korea’s participation in the Winter Olympics is dominating international headlines, North Koreans are apparently far more interested in reports of a young soldier’s defection at the heavily-fortified DMZ, Seoul-based Daily NK reveals, citing members of its vast network of informants inside North Korea.
Oh Chong Song, a 24-year-old North Korean soldier, was shot multiple times during a daring escape in the Joint Security Area at the DMZ. He was rescued and taken to a hospital for emergency medical treatment in South Korea. In addition to gunshot wounds, doctors treated Oh for a serious parasitic infection, as well as a variety of other health issues and illnesses.
Although he was unconscious and in critical condition for days, Oh survived his defection.
While North Korea strictly controls the flow of information, outside news still leaks into the country via merchants, traders, and even special dissident channels. The South Koreans did their part by broadcasting the young soldier’s story over loudspeakers at the border. North Korean sources revealed that people are fascinated by Oh’s story.
“In modern nations, medical technology is so advanced that they can save someone from the brink of death. He survived because he got surgery in South Korea. If he got surgery here, there’s no way he would have made it,” a source in Pyongyang told the Daily NK, indicating that this is one of the views shared by people who heard the news of Oh’s defection.
“The residents in the border region are surprised to learn that they [South Korea] saved the life of a soldier who would normally point a gun at them. His life was saved, his disease was cured, and he managed a successful defection enabling a truly new start to life,” a different source in Ryanggang Province revealed.
People reportedly said that the presence of roundworms in the soldier’s gut highlights the poor condition of the military. Parents with children in the armed forces are deeply troubled by the reports.
As for the Olympics, the Games are apparently not an overwhelmingly popular topic of conversation for North Koreans.
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