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(3rd LD) N. Korean troops violated armistice in chasing defector: UNC

All Headlines 12:03 November 22, 2017

(ATTN: UPDATES with surgeon's briefing, other details; ADDS photo,byline)
By Lee Chi-dong

SEOUL, Nov. 22 (Yonhap) -- The United Nations Command (UNC) announced Wednesday that North Korea clearly violated the 1953 Armistice Agreement twice last week, when its border security guards tried to hunt down a fellow soldier defecting to South Korea via Panmunjom.

The command released video clips lasting a total of around seven minutes showing the dramatic incident that happened at the Joint Security Area (JSA) of the truce village on Nov. 13.

The footage started with a jeep speeding through a checkpoint toward the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) as the CCTV timeline reads 15:11 on Nov. 13. The vehicle then made a quick right turn near a Kim Il-sung monument at the northern part of the JSA.

After its wheel apparently came loose, the soldier, clad in a Korean People's Army uniform, exited it and dashed toward the South .

Four North Korean guards, carrying guns and rifles, immediately pursued him, spraying bullets. The defector was shot five times, with some of the gunshots flying over the MDL. A North Korean guard also crossed the MDL for a few seconds then returned to the North's side.

The UNC stressed that the North Korean troops' acts were in breach of the Armistice Agreement that ended Korean War.

Lee Cook-jong, a surgeon at Ajou University Hospital, briefs the media on the medical condition of the North Korean soldier at the hospital in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, on Nov. 22, 2017. (Yonhap)

Separate footage from a thermal observation device showed three members of South Korea's JSA security battalion forces -- a battalion commander and two non-commissioned officers -- crawling on their stomachs to recover the wounded defector lying next to a wall.

Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, the UNC commander, said the battalion personnel's actions were appropriate.

He cited a special investigation involving representatives from the U.S., South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, which was observed by members from Sweden and Switzerland of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission.

"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," Brooks said in a statement. "The armistice agreement was challenged but it remains in place."

The command added it notified the North's military of the violations earlier in the day and requested a meeting to discuss the issue.

The U.N. Command makes public footage of a North Korean soldier, who defected to South Korea via Panmunjom, on Nov. 22, 2017. (Yonhap)

Meanwhile, the defector, reportedly in his 20s, went through two rounds of surgery at the at Ajou University Hospital in Suwon, south of Seoul.

He has regained consciousness, according to his doctor Lee Cook-jong.

"Currently, the patient is clearly conscious," he said in a press briefing. "The patient is suffering severe psychological stress and melancholy due to gunshot wounds and two major surgeries."

He will have to be treated at an emergency room at least for several more days, and a trauma-related medical examination is necessary, Lee added.



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