The United Nations Command in control of the border between the two Koreas released dramatic video footage on Tuesday of what happened when a North Korean solider defected to the South earlier this month.
The video shows the defector speeding south in a Jeep, before getting out, pursued by North Korean soldiers who open fire on the man, and later dragged to freedom by South Korean soldiers after being shot seven times.
The surveillance video also showed one of the North Korean guards step across the demarcation line, a violation of the ceasefire agreement, while chasing and shooting after the defector as he ran for freedom.
The 24-year-old defector, identified only by his last name, Oh, is shown driving a four-wheel 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 by the building at full speed after turning on its headlights.
A North Korean guard is seen running after the vehicle as it drives across a bridge and then passes a memorial to North Korean founder Kim Il Sung. This memorial is a well-known tourist spot for visitors to the Joint Security Area (JSA) inside the demilitarized zone.
The jeep appears to run into a ditch just a few feet away from a white demarcation line officially separating the two Koreas. After failed attempts to free the vehicle, the defector jumps out and sprints for his life toward the South. But North Korean armed guards who had hurried to the jeep fire shots behind the defector. The dramatic moment is shown in the video when he succeeds in running past the demarcation line then falls on the side of a concrete wall controlled by the South Korean side.
The United Nations Command also released infrared video images of how the allied soldiers carefully crawled toward the defector lying on a pile of fallen leaves, and drag 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.”
Violation of the armistice agreement
Analysis of the video shows that North Korea violated the armistice agreement by firing weapons across the military demarcation line (MDL) and actually crossing the line temporarily, according to Chad Carroll, Director of Public Affairs for the UNC.
Signed in 1953 by the U.N., North Korea and China, the Armistice Agreement put an end to the Korean War that stretched on for 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 continuously argued that it is still in effect. The open fire across the demilitarized zone and crossing of the MDL shown in the video is therefore taken as a provocative violation of the ceasefire designed to ensure peace in 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. The UNC personnel have also requested a meeting to discuss the investigation results and measures to prevent further transgressions.
North Korea is yet to comment on the defected soldier or the violation of the agreement.
Despite being shot seven times, the soldier is “not going to die,” Lee Cook-jong, the lead surgeon who operated on the defected soldier, told press on Wednesday.
Oh regained consciousness and confessed that he defected to the south on his own will. The 24-year-old has been in the military for eight years, at times working as a vehicle driver. Hospital staff played three K-pop music videos to Oh, 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 the patient in fear of a post-traumatic stress syndrome, and added that Oh is still shy and reticent.
Immediately after the rescue, the North Korean soldier was quickly transported to Ajou Hospital in Suwon, south of Seoul. He has fully regained consciousness after withstanding two critical surgeries. An emergency surgery took place on Nov. 13, just 30 minutes after he arrived at the hospital. The second surgery followed two days later. Surgeons removed five bullets and reportedly there are two more bullets to be removed. Lee explained that Oh will be able to leave the intensive care unit as early as this weekend. It could take over a month until the patient is ready for in-depth interviews.
After the first surgery, there were reports that parasitic worms were found in the young man’s small intestines, demonstrating poor hygiene in North Korea. The medical team discovered that the patient is suffering from a chronic hepatitis. The defector is also under examination for signs of post-traumatic stress.
ABC News’ Hakyung Kate Lee, Yejin Jang and Jaesang Lee contributed to this report.