Conflict & Justice

North Korea soldier defects to South Korea across DMZ


North Korean soldiers look in from outside the U.N. Command Military Armistice Commission meeting room at the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates the two Koreas since the Korean War, in Paju, north of Seoul, on April 24, 2011.



A North Korean soldier has defected to South Korea across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that divides the peninsula, reportedly after shooting dead two senior officers, the South Korean military and media reports said.

Defections across the heavily militarized land border that separates the two Koreas are rare, according to Agence France-Presse. This is only the fourth such defection reported in the last decade, the news agency said.

Six gunshots were heard at around noon on Saturday before a North Korean soldier was spotted crossing the demarcation line between North and South, a statement from the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, according to Yonhap.

The JCS statement said that through loudspeakers, South Korean guards confirmed the soldier wanted to defect to the South, and then led him to safety.

The soldier is reportedly being held in protective custody. Under questioning, he said he had shot and killed his squad and platoon leaders before escaping, the JCS statement said.

Yonhap cited a military official as saying two North Koreans had been seen "lying on the ground."

Most North Korean defectors cross over the border to China before traveling a long and circuitous route to the South via Thailand or another third country.

More from GlobalPost: Notorious North Korean prison camp is reportedly shuttered