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North Korea shoots its own soldier as he tries to defect

By Sheetal Sukhija, Seoul News
14 Nov 2017, 06:57 GMT+10

SEOUL, South Korea - At the heavily guarded border, which is jointly controlled by North and South Korea - an incident rattled the troops on both the sides.

On Monday, the Souths military said that North Korean soldiers shot at and wounded a fellow soldier who was crossing the jointly controlled border to defect to South Korea.

Reports in Seoul stated that while North Korean soldiers have occasionally defected to South Korea across the border, it is rare for a North Korean soldier to defect via the Joint Security Area.

At the Joint Security Area, border guards of the rival Koreas stand facing each other just meters away, and the incident in which the soldier was shot by fellow North Korean soldiers has never been witnessed before.

South Koreas Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the soldier bolted from a guard post at the northern side of Panmunjom village in the Joint Security Area to the southern side of the village.

The South's Defense Ministry said that the soldier was shot in the shoulder and elbow and was taken to a South Korean hospital.

However, it wasn't immediately known how serious the soldier's injuries were or why he decided to defect.

A South Korean Defense Ministry official added on Monday that South Korean troops found the injured soldier south of the border after hearing sounds of gunfire.

The official added that South Korean troops didn't fire at the North.

The defection comes at a time when both the countries are experiencing heightened tensions over North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

The incident, defense officials believe could escalate animosities between the rival countries.

Typically, North Korea has accused South Korea of enticing its citizens to defect, but the South has denied such claims.

Since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, about 30,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea, however, most of these people travel through China.

An armistice was signed to pause the Korean War at the obscure farming village of Panmunjom, which is inside the 4-kilometer-wide Demilitarized Zone that separates the two Koreas.

The area is jointly controlled by the American-led UN Command and North Korea and is guarded on both sides by hundreds of thousands of combat-ready troops, razor-wire fences and tank traps.

According to experts, over a million mines are believed to be buried inside the zone.

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