SUWON, South Korea -- The North Korean soldier, who was shot multiple times while defecting to South Korea last week, has fully regained consciousness, and his wounds are no longer life-threatening, his doctor said Wednesday.
Surgeon Lee Cook-jong at Ajou University Hospital in Suwon, south of Seoul, said that the 24-year-old soldier, identified only by his surname Oh, could leave the intensive care unit to a general ward as early as this weekend.
"The patient is not going to die," Lee said during a press briefing.
But the doctor said it would take about a month for Oh to recover enough to answer questions on his dramatic defection.
The soldier is showing signs of depression after suffering from gunshot wounds and undergoing two major surgeries, the doctor said, adding that the medical team will examine the patient's post traumatic stress.
"We will make a decision after consultations with related agencies with regard to the patient's treatment and transfer after that," Lee said.
Oh was shot five or six times by North Korean border guards as he raced across the border and through the truce village of Panmunjom on Nov. 13. He was taken to the hospital and underwent the first surgery, which lasted about five hours, later that day.
He received a second surgery on Nov. 15 and began breathing on his own three days later.
During the surgeries, dozens of fully grown parasitic worms were found in his ruptured small intestine, some as long as 27 centimeters (10.6 inches). That shows how bad the hygiene conditions are in the impoverished communist nation.
Examinations also showed he has tuberculosis and hepatitis B.
Doctors are treating the parasitic infection and plan to begin treatment of the hepatitis. But the tuberculosis is believed to be inactive and doesn't require urgent treatment, officials said.
Lee said that Oh has recovered enough to talk about pop music and movies.
"We played him three versions of Girls' Generation's 'Gee' -- the original version, the rock version and the indie band version -- and he said he likes the original version the best and that he loves girl groups," the doctor said. "We showed him a cable TV movie channel, and he said he likes the American drama 'CSI' and American films."
Lee said the hospital played him those songs for the sake of his emotional stability, denying some media reports that the solider first asked to listen to South Korean music.
Lee also said that while watching the US film "The Transporter," Oh told him that he also used to drive.
"We usually tell him he has to do this or that in South Korea, but we don't ask about his time in North Korea," the doctor said. "That's because it's bad for the patient to think about it."
Lee said the solider also told him that the reason he risked his life to defect is because of the positive images of South Korea. (Yonhap)