A North Korean soldier who defected through the DMZ yesterday is in critical condition, South Korea has confirmed. The soldier made it through but was shot at by North Korean soldiers. South Korea said he was shot at least five times.
The soldier crossed through one of the most guarded areas of the world to reach South Korea. He made it to the South Korean side of the Joint Security Area (JSA) on Monday and was taken to a hospital shortly after. Reports initially said he had been shot in the arm and shoulder.
South Korea said the soldier drove near the Joint Security Area but had to finish the journey without the vehicle when a wheel came loose. He was shot at several times by North Korean soldiers and the South revealed that the defector was found under a pile of leaves.
North Koreans rarely attempt to escape through this area as it is heavily guarded. Reports said this was only the third time that a soldier had escaped through the DMZ since 1998.
The Joint Security Area is where soldiers from each side stand face to face. This part of the border is dangerous but is also a tourist attraction. Those on a tour to the area must fill out a declaration that states that visitors will enter a hostile area and the possibility of injury or death as a result of enemy action.
Estimates say about 1,000 North Koreans flee to South Korea each year but most decide to cross through other places. The DMZ is heavily guarded and a number of incidents have happened there in recent years. North Korea and South Korea only agreed to a truce in 1953. This means that the two countries are technically still at war.
The soldier is only the third person in the last 19 years to cross through the DMZ to South Korea. A South Korean military official said earlier today that until this morning, they were told he had no consciousness and was unable to breathe on his own but added that his life can be saved. The military official also said that doctors had removed five bullets from his body but suspected there were two more inside.
South Korea says North Korean soldiers shot at the man 40 times when he exited the vehicle and continued fleeing. He is currently in critical condition.