Guards from the Korean People’s Army (KPA) yesterday fired 40 bullets at a North Korean soldier who defected at the truce village of Panmunjom, Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said on Tuesday.
Speaking at a meeting of the National Assembly’s defense committee, a senior military officer said the South Korean side had observed three North Korean soldiers moving from the East to the West at Panmungak at 1514 KST on Monday.
They then saw the North Korean soldier abandon a moving jeep near a DPRK guard post and run across the military demarcation line (MDL) which separates the two Koreas.
Suh Wook, Chief Director of Operations at the JCS, told lawmakers that “one soldier at the guard post chased and shot him.”
“Our understanding is that [the DPRK soldiers] fired around 40 shots.”
The defector was discovered covered with fallen leaves around 50 meters from the MDL on the South Korean side at 1531 KST, and was dragged to safety by three South Korean officers 24 minutes later.
The ROK military did not return fire.
South Korean defense minister Song Young-moo on Tuesday said that this was the first time that North Korean bullets had crossed into the South Korean side of the Joint Security Area (JSA).
Despite Song’s comments, a firefight broke out at the JSA in 1984, when Soviet citizen Vasily Yakovlevich Matuzok defected from the Northern side.
Three KPA soldiers and one South Korean were killed in the ensuing battle.
The JCS’s Suh Wook insisted the South Korean military needed to confirm whether the KPA had fired shots after the defector had crossed the MDL – a move which would constitute a violation of the armistice agreement between the two countries.
JCS spokesperson Army Col. Roh Jae-cheon said the question would be answered after a “precise on-site investigation” by the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission (UNCMAC).
“We will strictly remonstrate North Korea’s violation of armistice agreement through the United Nations Command.”
Roh said the North Korean soldier’s jeep had lost its wheels near a DPRK guard post, forcing him to abandon the vehicle and, with KPA soldiers in pursuit, cross into the South by foot.
“The fact that [he] escaped crossing the MDL is entirely confirmed through our surveillance system,” he told media during a news briefing.
When asked why the defector soldier drove into the North Korean guard post, the spokesperson said: “it will be confirmed after additional investigations.”
Roh said that Seoul had detected “urgent movements of the North Korean military” prior to the event, and said “it could be considered,” that an “agitation” took place before the defection occurred.
The defector was unarmed and wore the uniform of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) infantry, but a JCS spokesperson said the UNCMAC needed to conduct further investigation to determine whether he had worked at the JSA.
The South Korean Ministry of National Defense (MND) confirmed to media on Tuesday that this was the first time a North Korean soldier has defected at the JSA in ten years.
Lee Guk-jong, a doctor at the Ajou University Hospital in Suwon, said the soldier is in “a very dangerous condition” at a televised news briefing on Tuesday, adding his condition is likely to remain critical for the next 10 days.
Lee told press on Monday that the soldier had been unconscious when discovered and was put on a respirator.
North Korea is yet to comment on the incident.
Featured Image: NK News
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Join the influential community of members who rely on NK News original news and in-depth reporting.
Subscribe to read the remaining 579 words of this article.