PANMUNJOM (South Korea) • North Korea violated an armistice agreement with South Korea earlier this month when its soldiers shot and wounded a North Korean soldier when he defected across the border, and should not to do it again, the defense of South Korea The minister said yesterday.
The defector, identified only by his surname Oh, was seriously injured, but has been recovering in a hospital in South Korea.
The incident comes at a time of increased tension between North Korea and the international community over its nuclear weapons program, but the North has not publicly responded to desertion on the sensitive border.
South Korean Defense Minister Song Young Moo issued his warning to the North while visiting the border. He also praised the South Korean soldiers in a Joint Security Area (ASJ), in the so-called Panmunjom Truce Village in the demilitarized zone, for rescuing the deserter.
A border guard from North Korea briefly crossed the border in pursuit for the deserter on November 13, a video issued by the United Nations Command in Seoul showed a violation of the ceasefire agreement between the North and the South at the end of the Korean War of 1950-1953.
"Shooting to the south in a person who defected, that's a violation of the armistice agreement," Song said.
"Cross the line of military demarcation, rape, carry automatic rifles (in the JSA), another rape," he added as he stayed near South Korean soldiers found Mr. Oh, bleeding from his wounds. "North Korea must be informed that this kind of thing will never happen again."
Since the desertion, North Korea would have replaced guards stationed there. Soldiers have fortified a section of the area seen to block more defections by digging a trench and planting trees.
During the visit, South Korean military officers pointed out to Mr. Song two bullet holes in a metal wall in a South Korean building, from the shots fired by the North to Mr. Oh while running.
After inspecting the site yesterday, Mr. Song met with the troops stationed there for lunch and praised them for acting "promptly and appropriately."
Mr Oh has undergone several operations in the hospital to eliminate the bullets. Chief surgeon Lee Cook Jong said the patient suffers nightmares from being returned to the North.
In South Korea, six soldiers, three South Koreans and three Americans received awards last week from the United States Armed Forces in recognition of their efforts to rescue the defector.
South Korea has also been broadcasting news of the soldier's defection to North Korea via loudspeakers, the Yonhap news agency reported.