Seoul: N. Koreans fire at soldier trying to defect to South - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Seoul: N. Koreans fire at soldier trying to defect to South

By HYUNG-JIN KIM
Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - North Korean soldiers shot at and wounded a fellow soldier who was crossing a jointly controlled area at the heavily guarded border to defect to South Korea on Monday, the South's military said.

North Korean soldiers have occasionally defected to South Korea across the border. But it's rare for a North Korean soldier to defect via the Joint Security Area, where border guards of the rival Koreas stand facing each other just meters (feet) away, and be shot by fellow North Korean soldiers.

The soldier bolted from a guard post at the northern side of Panmunjom village in the Joint Security Area to the southern side of the village, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. He was shot in the shoulder and elbow and was taken to a South Korean hospital, the South's Defense Ministry said. It wasn't immediately known how serious the soldier's injuries were or why he decided to defect.

South Korean troops found the injured soldier south of the border after hearing sounds of gunfire, a South Korean Defense Ministry official said, requesting anonymity, citing department rules. South Korean troops didn't fire at the North, he said.

The defection came at a time of heightened tension over North Korea's nuclear weapons program, and could escalate animosities between the rival countries. North Korea has typically accused South Korea of enticing its citizens to defect, something the South denies.

About 30,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, but most travel through China.

Panmunjom, once an obscure farming village inside the 4-kilometer-wide (2 1/2-mile-wide) Demilitarized Zone that separates the two Koreas, is where an armistice was signed to pause the Korean War. Jointly controlled by the American-led U.N. Command and North Korea, the DMZ is guarded on both sides by hundreds of thousands of combat-ready troops, razor-wire fences and tank traps. More than a million mines are believed to be buried inside the zone.

American presidents often visit Panmunjom and other DMZ areas during their trips to South Korea to reaffirm their security commitment to the South. President Donald Trump planned to visit the DMZ to underscore his stance against North Korea's nuclear program when he came to South Korea last week as part of an Asian tour, but his plans were thwarted by heavy fog that prevented his helicopter from landing at the border area.

At Panmunjom, North Korean soldiers wearing lapel pins with the images of late North Korean leaders often use binoculars to monitor visitors from the South. They stand only several meters (yards) away from tall South Korean soldiers wearing aviator sunglasses and standing motionless like statues. This makes the area a popular stop for visitors from both sides.

Areas around Panmunjom were the site of bloodshed and defection attempts by North Koreans in the past, but there have been no such incidents in recent years.

The most famous incident was in 1976, when two American army officers were killed by ax-wielding North Korean soldiers. The attack prompted Washington to fly nuclear-capable B-52 bombers toward the DMZ in an attempt to intimidate North Korea.

In 1984, North Korean and U.N. Command soldiers traded gunfire after a Soviet citizen defected by sprinting to the South Korean sector of the truce village. The incident left three North Korean soldiers and one South Korean soldier dead. In 1998, a North Korean solider fled to South Korea via Panmunjom.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • NationalMore>>

  • Report shows Takata recall still moving slowly

    Report shows Takata recall still moving slowly

    Friday, November 17 2017 3:29 PM EST2017-11-17 20:29:08 GMT
    Sunday, November 19 2017 10:50 AM EST2017-11-19 15:50:11 GMT
    A new report issued Friday says auto companies have replaced only 57 percent of potentially deadly Takata air bag inflators, even though recalls have been under way for more than 15 years.More >>
    A new report issued Friday says auto companies have replaced only 57 percent of potentially deadly Takata air bag inflators, even though recalls have been under way for more than 15 years.More >>
  • AMAs reflect year in pop music, where male acts dominated

    AMAs reflect year in pop music, where male acts dominated

    Sunday, November 19 2017 3:00 AM EST2017-11-19 08:00:02 GMT
    Sunday, November 19 2017 10:40 AM EST2017-11-19 15:40:23 GMT
    The performers at the 2017 American Music Awards are evenly split between men and women, but the nominees, not so much.More >>
    The performers at the 2017 American Music Awards are evenly split between men and women, but the nominees, not so much.More >>
  • Ohio candidate doesn't regret sexual conquest Facebook post

    Ohio candidate doesn't regret sexual conquest Facebook post

    Saturday, November 18 2017 12:29 PM EST2017-11-18 17:29:40 GMT
    Sunday, November 19 2017 10:32 AM EST2017-11-19 15:32:28 GMT

    An Ohio Supreme Court justice and Democratic gubernatorial candidate says he deleted a Facebook post outlining his sexual history after being criticized in part for potentially identifying some of the women.

    More >>

    An Ohio Supreme Court justice and Democratic gubernatorial candidate says he deleted a Facebook post outlining his sexual history after being criticized in part for potentially identifying some of the women.

    More >>
Powered by Frankly