Seoul: North Korean soldiers shot at and wounded a fellow soldier who was crossing a border village in an attempt to defect to South Korea today, the South’s military said.
North Korean soldiers have occasionally managed to defect to South Korea across the heavily guarded border. But it’s rare for a North Korean soldier to defect via the border village of Panmunjom and be shot by fellow North Korean soldiers.
The North Korean soldier bolted from a guard post at the northern side of Panmunjom to the southern side of the village, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
He was wounded from North Korean firing and was being taken to a hospital, it said.
It wasn’t immediately known how serious the soldier’s injury was, what his rank was and why he decided to defect.
About 30,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, but most of them travel through China.
Panmunjom, located inside the four-kilometre-wide Demilitarised Zone that separates the two Koreas, is where an armistice was signed to pause the 1950-53 Korean War, with North Korea and China on one side and the American-led UN Command on the other.
The DMZ is guarded on both sides by hundreds of thousands of combat-ready troops, razor-wire fences and tank traps. More than a million mines are believed to be buried inside the zone.
No civilians live there, and a cluster of blue huts form a Joint Security Area overseen by North Korea and the UN Command.