By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
SEOUL, South Korea – On 13 November 2017, an unarmed, low-ranking member of the North Korean military attempted to escape to South Korea. He did so through the Joint Security Area in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). He drove to the border through what is known as a ‘peace village’ until a wheel fell off his vehicle. From there he proceeded on foot. The North Korean military opened fire on him, totaling 40 rounds. He was hit in the shoulder and the elbow. He managed to take cover behind a South Korean structure inside the DMZ. Later, U.S. and South Korean soldiers crawled out to rescue him.
He was air lifted to a hospital, where doctors began work immediately. While his injuries are critical, doctors believe his life will be saved. There are also reports of severe intestinal damage. Doctors identified enormous numbers of parasites in his body that complicate the man’s recovery. The doctor reported that he had never seen anything like this during his career spanning 20 years.
This is the first defection to occur across the DMZ this year and the third to ever occur since the end of the Cold War. Most defectors cross the border with China, as the security is less intense. The North Korean military has been increasing border control recently, and South Korea has seen a reduction of defectors coming in. So far this year, 780 North Koreans fled to South Korea.
North Korea has yet to release a statement or say anything about the event. South Korea broadcasted, over the loudspeaker in the DMZ, that doctors were treating the soldier.
This is also the first time that North Korean soldiers fired shots in the direction of the South.
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Author: Katherine Hewitt
Katherine Hewitt is a first year Masters of Arts in International Affairs candidate in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. She is pursuing a concentration in Peace, Security, and Conflict. Her interests lie in ethnic conflicts, particularly in the Post-Soviet Sphere. She expects to graduate in December 2018.