SEOUL • Dramatic footage of a North Korean soldier's defection released yesterday showed him racing across the border under fire from former comrades, and then being hauled to safety by South Korean troops.
The defector, who ran across the border at the Panmunjom truce village on Nov 13, was shot at least four times and has been recovering in a South Korean hospital. He was flown by a US military helicopter to a hospital in Suwon, south of Seoul.
Doctors announced yesterday that he had regained consciousness, having had two operations to extract the bullets, and his breathing was stable and unassisted.
The footage released by the United States-led United Nations Command (UNC) showed one soldier pursuing him across the military demarcation line (MDL) for several metres, before hesitating and turning back to the North. The badly injured defector, whose rank and identity have not been disclosed, was then pulled to safety by two South Korean soldiers who crawled to reach him just south of the dividing line.
It is very rare for the North's troops to defect at Panmunjom, a major tourist attraction and the only part of the border where forces from the two sides come face-to-face.
The footage began by showing the defector's vehicle travelling at speed along an empty road leading to the truce village before stopping near the heavily armed border.
He then got out of the jeep and ran, pursued by North Korean soldiers with their weapons drawn and firing.
UNC spokesman, Colonel Chad Carroll, told journalists the North had been informed yesterday that it had violated the 1953 armistice agreement, which marked the cessation of hostilities in the Korean War.
"The key findings are that the (North) violated the armistice agreement by one, firing weapons across the MDL, and two, by actually crossing the MDL temporarily," he said.
The UNC has requested a meeting to discuss the investigation and "measures to prevent future such violations", Col Carroll added.
Lead surgeon Lee Cook Jong yesterday gave the soldier's age as 24 and identified him by the family name Oh.
"From a medical point of view, he was almost dead when he was first brought here," Dr Lee said.
Hospital officials said they believe the man will recover, though there were continued risks of infection and he remained in intensive care.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS