ANOTHER North Korean soldier successfully fled across the border into South Korea followed by gun shots from both sides, defence officials in Seoul said on Thursday.
The South’s news agency Yonhap reported that a “low-ranking” North Korean soldier appeared at a South Korean guard post at 8.04am amid thick fog. It follows the dramatic escape of a soldier who crossed through the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) last month.
South Korea’s military said on Thursday that after the soldier defected, border guards from the North approached the Military Demarcation Line (MDL), seemingly searching for the soldier. At line 9.30am, the South’s border guards fired 20 warning shots.
North Korean troops responded 40 minutes later with several gun shots. “Today a North Korean soldier defected through our military’s general outpost in the centre-western region,” said South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman Roh Jae-cheon.
“Our military secured his safety, and a questioning will be conducted by related agencies to find out the background of his defection and motive.”
South Korean authorities said in a separate statement that two North Koreans had defected on Wednesday aboard a small wooden boat.
“The Navy found it in waters about 100 kilometers north of Dokdo during a patrol mission,” said the Unification Ministry at a press briefing. “A joint probe into the details of their identities is under way.”
The pair had “expressed their willingness to defect” said a ministry official. According to Yonhap, 15 North Koreans have defected this year including 4 soldiers.
The North Korean soldier who was shot several times during a daring dash across the border on Nov 13 has since been identified as 24-year-old Oh Chong Songbeen.
Oh was transferred to a military hospital last week from a trauma centre at Ajou University Hospital south of Seoul, where his treatment for gunshot wounds and pre-existing conditions included two major operations.
Intelligence officials said they would soon begin questioning Oh.
The defections come at a time of heightened tension on the Korean peninsula because of North Korea’s missile and nuclear programmes, which it is pursuing in defiance of international pressure that includes United Nations resolutions.
North Korea is yet to respond to the latest incidents.
Additional reporting from Reuters