A North Korean soldier defected to the South by driving a military jeep to the line that divides the peninsula, then sprinting across it under a hail of gunfire from his former comrades, officials said Tuesday. The last time a North Korean soldier defected through there was in 2007 and, before that, in 1998.
The Joint Security Area in Panmunjom is the only place in 155-mile-long and 2 ½ mile-wide Korean Demilitarized Zone where military-level meetings are held between the UN Command and North Korea.
The soldier was airlifted to a hospital south of Seoul after he was found bleeding under a pile of leaves Monday in the truce village of Panmunjom, the only point in the DMZ where both sides come face to face.
A JCS official quoted by Yonhap news agency said the South's soldiers heard a gunshot and then retrieved the unarmed soldier in the mid-afternoon.
Two North Korean soldiers defected to the South in June after crossing the frontier at another location.
About 30,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, with most travel through China.More news: Federal Bureau of Investigation data shows hate crimes appeared to drop in Wisconsin
It's unclear what the soldier's conditions are or why he chose to defect to the South. We wonder what our military did even when North Korea made a serious provocation again by violating the decades-old cease-fire agreement in the tense border.
According to the South Korean military there was no exchange of fire across the border, and the UNC statement stressed that no South Korean or U.S. forces were harmed.
South Korea's military has strengthened vigilance in the wake of the incident and remains prepared for any situation, the JCS said. More than a million mines are believed to be buried inside the zone.
The defection came at a time of heightened tension over North Korea's nuclear weapons programme, and could escalate animosities between the rival countries.
The most famous incident was in 1976, when two American army officers were killed by ax-wielding North Korean soldiers.
Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, was photographed by North Korean soldiers while he stood inside one of the huts during a visit to the DMZ in March. South Korean troops didn't fire at the North, he said. That prompted Washington to send nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to intimidate the North before the adversaries pulled back from the brink of conflict.