A North Korean soldier, who was shot ruthlessly while defecting to the South, underwent several surgical procedures and is said to be in a critical condition, South Korea’s government and military said on Tuesday. “Until this morning, we heard he had no consciousness and was unable to breathe on his own but his life can be saved,” Suh Wook, chief director of operations at South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff was quoted by news agency Reuters. The official added that five bullets have been removed from the soldier’s body so far. The official said that the soldier, who had sped towards the border in a vehicle, was forced to escape on foot after a wheel came loose, while four North Korean soldiers shot around 40 rounds at him.
Lee Cook-jong, the surgeon who has been handling the soldiers’ treatment, cited intestinal damage caused by the bullets as the reason behind his critical health condition.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Command issued a statement saying that the injured soldier took cover behind a South Korean structure within the Joint Security Area (JSA) inside the demilitarised zone between the two Koreas. He was later rescued by South Korean and US soldiers at the border. The statement added that the soldier was shot by a number of North Korean soldiers.
Wook said the the injured soldier was found unarmed and was immediately taken for treatment. However, South Korean officials are yet to conclude where the soldier came from and his motive behind the move.
The military armistice commission of the United Nations and South Korea have already informed the North Korean military about the soldier and his ongoing treatment. The UN Command said that an investigation into the incident has been initiated.
This is the first time since 2007 that a North Korean soldier has defected across JSA. The incident was also mentioned in Parliament by South Korean Defence Minister Song Young-moo to which some lawmakers prompted that the military should had responded to the fires shot from the North.
Later, Sang-gyun, South Korea’s defence ministry spokesman said that military operations at the JSA are commonly carried out under the instructions of UN Command, which is in turn under order from the US military. Meanwhile, there have been no reports of South Korean or US soldiers being injured during the incident.
(With inputs from Reuters)