Escaped North Korean soldier fights for life after being shot crossing DMZ

North Korean soldier defects to South Korea at truce village

The soldier crossed to the south side of the Joint Security Area at Panmunjom, the only portion of the border Demilitarised Zone where forces from the two sides come face-to-face, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) has assessed that North Korean troops fired some 40 rounds at a North Korean soldier as he sprinted across the heavily-fortified border to defect to the South on Monday.

Seo went on to say that at 3:31 p.m., the JCS spotted the North Korean soldier lying in a pile of leaves some 50 meters south of the Military Demarcation Line and at around 3:56 p.m. three South Korean troops approached the North Korean soldier.

"He has at least six gunshot wounds on his body and the penetrating wound in the abdomen is the most serious", the doctor, Lee Cook-Jong, told reporters, AFP said.

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.

North Korean soldiers have occasionally defected to South Korea across the border.

The fact that the defector drove to the frontier suggests he may not have been a member of the elite corps of North Korean troops posted to Panmunjom, who are carefully vetted and selected for their loyalty.

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It was not immediately known how serious the soldier's injuries were or why he made a decision to defect. The next 10 days will be crucial for his recovery, Lee was quoted as saying by the Yonhap News Agency.

Although there have been a handful of defections across the DMZ in recent years, escapes through the tense Joint Security Area are rare. However, he was shot by North Korean soldiers on the way, and he has been rushed to hospital.

This makes the area a popular stop for visitors from both sides.

No tourists were present at the time, because tours do not run on Mondays.

North Korea has not commented on the shooting, but it usually responds angrily to defections and often accuses South Korea of kidnapping its citizens.

Two American soldiers also were killed in the DMZ by ax-wielding North Korean soldiers in a 1976 brawl over an attempt to trim a poplar tree.

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.

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