A North Korean soldier was shot and injured as he defected to South Korea through the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), South Korea’s military said earlier today. The soldier was shot and injured by North Korean soldiers but was able to make it through.
The soldier crossed to the South Korean side of the village of Panmunjom, an area where North Korea and South Korea stand face to face. The soldier was taken to a hospital shortly after crossing through the DMZ.
The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is 160 miles long but North Koreans rarely attempt to cross to South Korea through this area as it is one of the most heavily guarded places on Earth. There have been numerous incidents over the years in this area and estimates say only a few have crossed through this area in the last 20 years.
Reports say around 1,000 North Koreans escape to South Korea each year but very few attempt to do it through the heavily guarded area. It is actually only the fourth time that a North Korean soldier defects through the DMZ.
A statement released by South Korea’s Joint Chief of Staff, said the soldier made it by passing through the Joint Security Area (JSA) at Panmunjom. The village, which is also a tourist destination, was where the two countries agreed to a truce to end hostilities in 1953. Peace was never agreed to, so the two countries are technically still at war 64 years later. One of the main attractions of the village is the powder blue building where officials from the two countries have met in the past.
The strip of land separating the two countries is one of the most heavily armed places in the world. The statement added that the soldier crossed from a North Korea post towards the Freedom House. He was shot at by North Korean soldiers as he crossed and was hit in the arm and shoulder. The soldier was hospitalized early Monday.
South Korean media reported that this is the first defection across the DMZ since 2007. The previous defection happened in 1998.
The majority of the defections happen through other routes. Most North Koreans escape via China, a border that is less protected than the DMZ. Numbers from South Korean officials recently revealed that in the first eight months of the year, 780 North Koreans had escaped to South Korea.