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(5th LD) N. Korean troops violated armistice in chasing defector: UNC

All Headlines 14:09 November 22, 2017

(ATTN: CLARIFIES N. Korean soldier's defection move in paras 3-4)
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 starts with a jeep speeding toward the so-called 72-hour bridge, at which point the CCTV timeline reads "2017-11-13 15:11." In the video, the jeep passes by a checkpoint in the direction of the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) before making a quick right turn by a monument to Kim Il-sung, which is the starting point of the northern part of the JSA. The driver was apparently intending to cross the border by the car.

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

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)

Four North Korean guards, armed with pistols and rifles, immediately pursued him several meters behind, opening fire.

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 and 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 the Korean War.

"The key findings of the special investigation team are that the KPA violated the Armistice Agreement by one, firing weapons across the MDL, and two, by actually crossing the MDL temporarily," U.S. Army Col. Chad Carroll, UNC's public affairs chief, said at a briefing.

A North Korean soldier runs toward South Korea after exiting a jeep at the truce village of Panmunjom in a video clip released by the United Nations Command on Nov. 22, 2017. (Yonhap)

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

"I think it's important to note that that point in this area of the JSA is exposed to a KPA checkpoint from where they are," Carroll said.

U.S. Army Col. Chad Carroll, spokesman for the U.N. Command, briefs media on Nov. 22, 2017, on footage of a North Korean soldier who defected to South Korea via Panmunjom. (Yonhap)

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

He cited the 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 notified the North's military of the violations earlier in the day and requested a meeting to discuss the issue.

"UNC personnel read out the results of the probe close to the MDL at the JSA. The North's troops approached close and videotaped almost all of the situation," a UNC official said.

A North Korean defector lies next to a wall after being shot by fellow troops during his defection to South Korea in this photo captured from a CCTV clip provided by the U.N. Command on Nov. 22, 2017. (Yonhap)

Meanwhile, the defector, reportedly in his 20s, went through two rounds of surgery 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.

lcd@yna.co.kr
(END)

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