A South Korean soldier whose body and face are covered by a blanket to deceive the media into thinking he is a murder suspect is carried on a stretcher to a hospital in Gangneung, South Korea, Monday. Pic: AP.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s Defense Ministry has acknowledged it used a stand-in to portray a captured runaway soldier to deceive journalists as the real fugitive was taken to a hospital following a failed suicide attempt.

A ministry official said Tuesday the ploy was used because the fugitive needed swift medical treatment and the media could have caused a delay. The official requested anonymity citing department rules.

He said authorities used two ambulances — one carrying the injured fugitive and the other with another soldier whose body and face were covered by a blanket. The decoy was carried into the hospital as photographers snapped pictures.

He said the ambulance carrying the real fugitive entered the hospital through its basement.

The sergeant had fled after killing five colleagues Saturday. He was captured Monday.