Gunfire erupts in DMZ as another NK soldier defects to South

By Yeo Jun-suk
  • Published : Dec 21, 2017 - 15:41
  • Updated : Dec 21, 2017 - 18:32
A North Korean solider defected to South Korea on Thursday through the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone that separates the two Koreas, prompting the two countries to fire warnings shots at each other, South Korea’s military said.

The defecting soldier made his way across the central part of the DMZ and appeared at a guard post in thick fog at around 8 a.m. The soldier is a low-ranking enlistee and carried an AK-47 rifle when crossing the border, according to the South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

South Korean soldiers spotted North Korean border guards searching for the defector at 9:24 a.m. and fired some 20 warning shots in response. Some 50 minutes later, the sound of multiple gunshots were heard from the North, the JCS said.

There were no casualties for the South Korean military and no bullets were found in southern parts of the cross-border region. As of Thursday afternoon, there was no indication of unusual North Korean troop movement, the military added.

“We have taken custody of the soldier defector safely,” a JCS official told reporters under the customary condition of anonymity. “Relevant agencies continue to conduct an investigation to figure out why and how he defected.”
A South Korean soldier stands at the Joint Security Area. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

The defected soldier is thought to be 19 years old and has been in the military for only two years, according to the South Korean military. He is under investigation by the National Intelligence Service and Defense Security Command.

The latest defection brings the total number of defected soldiers to four so far this year, including the 24-year-old solider Oh Chung-sung who crossed the border at the truce village of Panmunjom last month as his former compatriots fired off a hail of bullets toward him.

North Korean residents have also continued to flee across the border. On Wednesday, two North Korean men aboard a small wooden vessel defected to South Korea by crossing the maritime border in the East Sea.  

They were found about 100 kilometers north of the Dokdo islets by the Navy, which was conducting a patrol mission in the area. The two men expressed their willingness to defect immediately, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said Thursday.

It was not the first time that the North Korean people have defected to the South via the East Sea. In July, five North Korean residents used a small vessel to cross the maritime border. The ministry said a total of 11 North Korean residents have escaped their homeland this year.

By Yeo Jun-suk (