A North Korean solider defected to South Korea Saturday in a bold demonstration of defiance and violence. The soldier first shot two of his former comrades while escaping, and made it through the demilitarized zone (DMZ) into South Korea.
The North Korean soldier's defection took place at about noon, when he claims he shot his squad and platoon leaders in an effort to escape. Soldiers abandoning their posts are rare near the border of the two technically warring countries- only four other defections have happened in the past 10 years, as the soldiers closest to DMZ are said to be the most loyal.
After killing his superiors, the currently unnamed soldier made his way through the only transport strip between North and South Korea; everywhere else in the DMZ is covered in land mines.
"Six gunshots were heard and our guards spotted a North Korean solder crossing the military demarcation line," a Seoul Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman told reporters. "Through loudspeakers, we confirmed he wanted to defect to the South and we led him to safety."
The man now remains in protective custody. So far, his intentions for defecting have not been revealed, but South Korean guard along the border has been increased as a result.
The daring escape is indeed a rare occurrence, as the vast majority of North Koreans looking to defect choose to go through China; although it bears the risk of repatriation, it is safer than crossing the demilitarized zone. Over 24,000 have emigrated from the impoverished, dictator-controlled country since the 1950-1953 Korean War ended with a ceasefire, according to reports.
Still, others attempt the journey to freedom via boat, although it is considerably rare as well. In 2010, another soldier defected by crossing the DMZ, but without violent incident. Although North Korea has not commented, some believe the sensitive timing of the incident- both countries have accused each other of attempted sabotage surrounding South Korea's Dec. 19 election- could have serious consequences.
"Apart from anything else, this is a real embarrassment for the North as the soldiers deployed along the border are supposedly the most loyal to (North Korean leader) Kim Jong-Un," Yang Moo-Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, told The News International.
"The North will demand the soldier's immediate repatriation and the situation could easily escalate. In terms of any impact on the presidential election, it really depends how the South handles it," he added.