Soldier has nightmares of being sent back

SEOUL • North Korea's latest defector, a young soldier known only by his family name Oh, is a quiet, pleasant man who has nightmares about being returned to the North, his surgeon said.

"He's a pretty nice guy," said lead surgeon Lee Cook Jong, who has been operating and caring for the 24-year-old.

Mr Oh has become a focus of worldwide attention after he was badly wounded by fellow North Korean soldiers as he scrambled across the border in the Demilitarised Zone that separates North and South on Nov 13.

A video of his escape, which was released on Wednesday, showed him stumbling over the border and being dragged unconscious through the undergrowth by troops in South Korea.

Dr Lee has been almost the only person to speak with Mr Oh since he was taken to Ajou University Hospital. The soldier is being guarded by South Korean special forces and intelligence officers.

Dr Lee, who has hung a South Korean flag in the soldier's room, said he is avoiding subjects that may disturb his patient. The soldier has already told him he had a nightmare about being returned to the North.

Mr Oh is eating his first "clear liquid" food such as broths, and can smile, talk and use his hands, Dr Lee said.

Medical teams have worked for days to remove the shards of at least four bullets from Mr Oh's body, stitch up his shredded organs and treat pre-existing conditions, including tuberculosis, hepatitis B and a case of massive intestinal worms, Dr Lee said.

The surgeon said he has been playing South Korean music for his patient. Mr Oh enjoys K-pop music and watches videos by girl group Girls' Generation, reported Allkpop blog. It said his favourite Girls' Generation song is Gee.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2017, with the headline 'Soldier has nightmares of being sent back'. Print Edition | Subscribe