South Korea's unification ministry said Friday that through consultations, government agencies will decide who will foot the medical bill for a wounded North Korean soldier defecting to the South via the border.
The 24-year-old man, identified only by his surname Oh, was shot and wounded by his fellow soldiers on Nov. 13 when he crossed the military demarcation line to defect. It will likely cost more than 100 million won ($92,260) to treat him, but who will cover the costs has not been decided.
"As the medical costs are unprecedentedly high, if relevant ministries make an official request for the issue, we plan to decide who will foot the bill through consultations," Lee Eugene, vice spokesperson at the ministry, told a regular press briefing.
She said that who will cover the bill is not affected by whether the defector has classified information about North Korea.
The defector was shot five times when four armed North Korean border guards chased Oh during a dramatic defection via the truce village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone that bisects the two Koreas.
The defector is in an intensive care unit after several surgeries, but he has fully regained consciousness, and his wounds are no longer life-threatening, according to surgeon Lee Cook-jong at Ajou University Hospital in Suwon, south of Seoul. (Yonhap)