SEOUL (Reuters) – The North Korean soldier shot while defecting to the South on Monday was racing towards the border in a car when a wheel came loose, forcing him to escape on foot under fire from North Korean soldiers, the South Korean government and military said.
North Korea’s military showed a “flurry of action” when the defector was spotted driving towards the South alone in a four wheel drive vehicle, Roh Jae-cheon, a spokesman for the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a media briefing on Tuesday.
The North Korean soldier was subject to a shower of roughly 40 rounds, according a South Korean defense ministry official who was briefing lawmakers regarding Monday’s event.
The soldier took cover behind a South Korean structure within the Joint Security Area (JSA) inside the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas and was later rescued by South Korean and U.S. soldiers at the border, the United Nations Command (UNC) said in a separate statement.
It said the soldier had been shot by several North Korean soldiers.
The military armistice commission of the United Nations said in the same UNC statement it had informed the North Korean military that the soldier, who was found about 50 meters (150 feet) south of the Military Demarcation Line, had been undergoing surgeries for his gunshot wounds.
The soldier is in a critical condition.
The United Nations Command said an investigation into Monday’s event was ongoing.
Roh said no South Korean or U.S. soldiers were wounded during the incident and the defense ministry official said North Korea’s military was not showing any unusual movements on Tuesday.
Reporting by Christine Kim; Additional reporting by Cynthia Kim and Yuna Park; Editing by Michael Perry