A soldier from the Korean People’s Army (KPA) has defected to the South at Panmunjom, Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said on Monday.
The soldier crossed to South Korea from the North Korean side of the heavily guarded Joint Security Area (JSA) to Freedom House in the South, according to the JCS.
He was shot by a North Korean soldier but succeeded in crossing, the JCS added, and has been evacuated for medical treatment.
“Our military maintains full readiness while strengthening the alert in preparation for the possibility of provocations by the North Korean army,” the JCS said.
The soldier suffered a bullet wound in his elbow and arm, a JCS official, who wished to remain anonymous, told NK News.
South Korean soldiers heard a gunshot, the official said, before discovering the North Korean soldier 50 meters from the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) at 1531 KST.
“The North Korean soldier was unarmed when he defected and several gunshots were heard,” the official added, saying he was airlifted by a United Nations Command helicopter.
There was no exchange of fire between the two Koreas.
Most recently, a North Korean crossed the maritime border between the two Koreas and defected to South Korea in August.
Urs Gerber, a former Swiss Army Major General at the demilitarised zone for the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission (NNSC), told NK News that Monday’s events were a “rare incident, indeed.”
“To my best knowledge, there has been nothing similar before going back to the Soviet defector in November 1984,” Gerber said, a reference to the defection of Vasily Yakovlevich Matuzok. “Apparently the KPA shot at the defector but did not cross the MDL in “hot pursuit” as they did in 1984.”
“A defection in the JSA is something that both sides are really afraid of as it is highly visible and could affect visitors.”
While the JSA is a popular tourist attraction, it is closed on Mondays, meaning no foreign visitors were present when the defection took place.
“A lot of visitors on both sides have been and will be a sort of nightmare for this kind of scenario,” Gerber said.
“As indicated, both sides are strictly ordered to apprehend or at least shoot any defector, hence visitors would be in grave danger in case of a defection, particularly from the Northern side.”
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Featured Image: DMZ (46) by Army Vet on 2013-03-16 10:41:27