By Alex Jensen
North Korean troops were in breach of a decades-old truce when they opened fire on a fellow soldier escaping into South Korea last week, according to the United Nations Command (UNC) Wednesday.
A week after promising to do so, the UNC released footage showing a North Korean soldier crossing the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) while chasing his defecting comrade who was shot several times before receiving lifesaving treatment in the South.
Local media have been critical of Seoul’s alleged unpreparedness, as around 40 North Korean rounds of gunfire went unanswered by South Korea’s military stationed at the heavily guarded Joint Security Area – also a popular attraction for tourists under close protection. No visitors happened to be on site at the time of the incident shortly past 3 p.m. on Nov. 13.
“The key findings of the special investigation team are that [North Korea’s military] violated the Armistice Agreement by one, firing weapons across the MDL, and two, by actually crossing the MDL temporarily,” UNC spokesman Chad Carroll said at a briefing.
The UNC’s footage demonstrated how dramatic the defecting soldier’s escape was – first driving a jeep and then being chased on foot by several North Korean guards, one of whom crossed the MDL for a few seconds.
UNC Commander Gen. Vincent K. Brooks insisted in a statement that the Armistice Agreement “remains in place” despite being challenged.
Brooks also praised the UNC Security Battalion for taking actions to “deter a resumption of hostilities” and respecting the Demilitarized Zone even though North Korea opened fire.
The soldier who defected is still recovering in a hospital south of Seoul but has regained consciousness following two operations, according to his doctor cited by Yonhap News Agency.
South Korea’s policy is to accept escapees from the North, although the journey is often perilous because there are no legal ways to travel between the Koreas without special permission.