SEOUL: Dramatic footage of a North Korean soldier’s defection released Wednesday showed him racing across the border under fire from former comrades, and then being hauled to safety by South Korean troops.
The footage also showed a North Korean guard briefly crossing the border in hot pursuit before retreating — an incident the US-led United Nations Command described as a serious breach of the 1953 ceasefire that ended Korean War hostilities.
The defector was shot at least four times in his desperate escape bid at the Panmunjom truce village on November 13, and has been recovering in a South Korean hospital.
The video released by the UNC began by showing the defector’s vehicle travelling at speed along an empty road leading to the truce village before stopping near the heavily armed border.
He then got out of the jeep and ran, pursued by NorthKorean soldiers with their weapons drawn and firing.
The footage then showed the badly injured man being pulled to safety by two South Korean soldiers who crawled to reach him just south of the dividing line.
UN Command spokesman Colonel Chad Carroll told journalists that one of the border guards ran across the military demarcation line for a “few seconds before returning back to the north side.”
An investigation found that the North Korean army violated the 1953 armistice both by firing weapons across the demarcation line and by actually crossing it.
The UNC has “requested a meeting (with North Korea) to discuss our investigation and measures to prevent future such violations,” Carroll said.
South Korean and US service members on duty at the border did not return fire, and Carroll commended their restraint in refraining from actions that could have unleashed cross-border hostilities.
They “demonstrated appropriate self-discipline and sound decision-making at a time when the situation on the ground was not nearly as clear as we can see now in the video,” he said.
The security forces “demonstrated considerable courage that day” and “deescalated this uncertain and ambiguous situation” at the border, he said.
Tensions between the US and North Korea are running high after a series of missile and nuclear tests aimed at deploying an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to US cities.
The United States on Tuesday unveiled new sanctions targeting North Korean shipping and Chinese traders doing business with Pyongyang, again raising the pressure on the pariah state to abandon its nuclear program.
(Drag to 3.02 to see an encounter between troops and the defector)