PANMUNJOM (South Korea) • North Korea violated an armistice agreement with South Korea earlier this month, when its soldiers shot and wounded a North Korean soldier as he defected across the border, and it must not do so again, South Korea's defence minister said yesterday.
The defector, who is identified only by his surname Oh, was critically wounded but has been recovering in a hospital in South Korea.
The incident comes at a time of heightened tension between North Korea and the international community over its nuclear weapons programme, but the North has not publicly responded to the defection at the sensitive border.
South Korean Minister of Defence Song Young Moo issued his warning to the North while on a visit to the border. He also commended the South Korean soldiers at a Joint Security Area (JSA), in the so-called Truce Village of Panmunjom in the demilitarised zone, for rescuing the defector.
A North Korean border guard briefly crossed the border in the chase for the defector on Nov 13, a video released by the United Nations Command in Seoul showed, a violation of the ceasefire accord between North and South at the end of the 1950-1953 Korean War.
"Shooting towards the South at a defecting person, that's a violation of the armistice agreement," Mr Song said.
"Crossing the military demarcation line, a violation. Carrying automatic rifles (in the JSA), another violation," he added as he stood near where South Korean soldiers had found Mr Oh, bleeding from his wounds."North Korea should be informed that this sort of thing should never occur again."
Since the defection, North Korea has reportedly replaced guards stationed there. Soldiers have fortified a section of the area seen aimed at blocking any more defections by digging a trench and planting trees.
During the visit, South Korean military officials pointed out to Mr Song two bullet holes in a metal wall on a South Korean building, from the shots fired by the North at Mr Oh as he ran.
After inspecting the site yesterday, Mr Song met the troops stationed there for lunch and praised them for acting "promptly and appropriately".
Mr Oh has undergone several operations in hospital to remove bullets. Lead surgeon Lee Cook Jong said that the patient suffers from nightmares about being returned to the North.
In South Korea, six soldiers, three South Korean and three American, were given awards by the United States Forces Korea last week in recognition for their efforts in rescuing the defector.
South Korea has also been broadcasting news of the soldier's defection towards North Korea via loudspeakers, Yonhap news agency reported.