North Korean Soldier Shot by Own Troops as He Defects to the South

He took cover near a building on the southern side of the Joint Security Area in Panmunjom before South Korean and American troops came to his aid and took him to a hospital, the command said in a statement.

The Joint Security Area, which is 35 miles north of Seoul, the capital, was established after North Korea and its Communist ally China signed the armistice with the United Nations Command, which fought on South Korea’s behalf.

The area is the only place along the border where troops from North and South Korea face off, separated from each other by only a few feet.

A North Korean soldier last defected at the heavily guarded location in 2007.

More than 30,000 North Koreans have fled to the South since a widespread famine hit the impoverished North in the late 1990s. Nearly all of them have traveled through China. But a few North Korean soldiers and civilians have defected by crossing the 2.5-mile-wide demilitarized zone, which is guarded by minefields, sentry posts and tall fences topped with barbed wire, some electrified.

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