North border guard shoots superiors and defects

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North border guard shoots superiors and defects

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A North Korean soldier defected to the South in a rare crossing of the heavily fortified border after killing his two superiors at a guard post.

“At around noon, there were six consecutive gunshots on the north side near the Gyeongui railway line,” an official of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the JoongAng Sunday.

“At around 12:06 p.m., a North Korean soldier ran down the road crossing the Military Demarcation Line and said he wants to defect to the South,” he said.

“Using a loud speaker, we communicated with him and confirmed his will to defect,” the official said. “After that, we led him to the South and safely detained him at around 12:10 p.m.”

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According to the military, the soldier, who is in his late teens, said he fatally shot a squad commander and a platoon leader who were on duty with him at a North Korean guard post near the border.

He then threw away his rifle and ran toward the southern post across the border without any weapons. There was no military clash between the two Koreas during the defection.

The military told the JoongAng Sunday that they saw two North Korean soldiers on the ground near the post, who were carried away by North Koreans afterwards. But they said they couldn’t confirm whether the soldiers died.

The defection was on a road used by South Korean officials and workers to reach the Kaesong Industrial Complex.

The distance between the final South Korean guard post and the first of North Korea’s is 500 meters (0.3 miles). The Military Demarcation Line is 250 meters away from each. There is no fence between the guard posts.

Even after the defection, business went on as usual at the inter-Korean industrial complex. At 2:00 p.m., 300 workers returned to the South.

“The Joint Chiefs of Staff is questioning the soldier at this moment,” a Ministry of Unification official told the Korea JoongAng Daily.

Another South Korean government official told the Korea JoongAng Daily, “It seems to be a matter of slack military discipline. So they probably won’t ask us to return the defector.”

According to the military, there have been five North Korean soldiers who defected to the South by crossing the Military Demarcation Line in the past 10 years, but none have come down the road from Kaesong. Those five crossed the fortified and mine-strewn DMZ.

By Kim Hee-jin, Jeong Yong-soo [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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