Dramatic video shows North Korean defector shot 5 times, pulled to freedom
The United Nations Command in control of the border between the two Koreas released dramatic video on Tuesday of what happened when a North Korean soldier defected to the South on Nov. 13.
The video shows the defector speeding south in a jeep before getting out, being shot at least five times by North Korean soldiers pursuing him and then being dragged to safety by South Korean soldiers.
The surveillance video also showed one of the North Korean guards step across the demarcation line between the two countries while chasing the defector, in violation of a cease-fire agreement.
In the video the 24-year-old defector, identified only by his family name, Oh, is shown driving a military jeep along a road on the northern side of the border toward the South. It approaches a white building, a checkpoint under North Korean control, then passes it at full speed.
The jeep passes a memorial to North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, a well-known destination for visitors to the Joint Security Area inside the Demilitarized Zone, and North Korean guards are seen chasing the vehicle.
The jeep runs off the pavement just a few feet from a white demarcation line between the two Koreas. After failed attempts to free the vehicle, Oh jumps out and sprints toward the South. North Korean armed guards who had hurried to the jeep fire shots at him. Oh is next seen collapsed next to a concrete wall on ground controlled by the South.
The United Nations Command also released infrared video images of South Korean soldiers carefully crawling toward Oh and dragging him to safety.
“After thoroughly reviewing the investigation results, I assess the actions taken by the UNC Security Battalion were in a manner that is consistent with the Armistice Agreement, namely — to respect the Demilitarized Zone and to take actions that deter a resumption of hostilities,” Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, the UNC commander, said in a statement. “The armistice agreement was challenged, but it remains in place.”
Analysis of the video shows that North Korea violated the Korean Armistice Agreement by firing weapons across the military demarcation line and briefly crossing the line, according to Chad Carroll, the director of public affairs for the UNC.
Signed in 1953 by the U.N., North Korea and China, the agreement put an end to the Korean War, which lasted three years. The agreement states, “Neither side shall execute any hostile act within, from or against the demilitarized zone. No person, military or civilian, shall be permitted to cross the military demarcation line unless specifically authorized to do so by the Military Armistice Commission.”
Although North Korea has announced its withdrawal from the agreement repeatedly since then, the U.N. has consistently argued that it is still in effect. The firing across the Demilitarized Zone and crossing of the military demarcation line shown in the video is therefore taken as a provocative violation of the cease-fire designed to ensure peace on the peninsula.
The North Korean army was notified of these violations on Wednesday through communication channels in Panmunjom, a village just north of the border. UNC personnel have requested a meeting to discuss the investigation results and measures to prevent further transgressions.
North Korea has yet to comment on the defection or the violations of the agreement.
Despite being shot at least five times, the soldier is “not going to die,” Lee Cook-jong, the lead surgeon who operated on Oh, told reporters on Wednesday.
He regained consciousness and said he defected to the South of his own will. He was in the military for eight years, at times working as a vehicle driver. Hospital staffers played three K-pop music videos for him, which he liked, said Lee. Lately he has been watching Korean TV, especially the movie channel, including the Hollywood action film “Transporter 3.” Lee told reporters that they do not play the news for Oh, in case he is suffering from post-traumatic stress, and that he is still shy and reticent.
Immediately after the rescue, Oh was quickly transported to Ajou Hospital in Suwon, south of Seoul, and underwent two critical surgeries. An emergency surgery was performed 30 minutes after he arrived at the hospital. In the second surgery, two days later, surgeons removed five bullets from him. Lee said Oh will be able to leave the intensive care unit as early as this weekend. It could be over a month before he will be ready for in-depth interviews.
After the first surgery, there were reports that parasitic worms were found in Oh’s small intestine, indicating poor hygiene in North Korea. The medical team discovered that he has chronic hepatitis. He is under examination for signs of post-traumatic stress.
ABC News’ Hakyung Kate Lee, Yejin Jang and Jaesang Lee contributed to this report.