A North Korean soldier has defected to South Korea, crossing the Demilitarized Zone, Seoul’s defense ministry said.
Emerging from a thick fog, the “low-ranking” soldier, reportedly 19 years old, appeared in front of a guard post around 8 a.m. Thursday, the South Korean Yonhap news agency reported.
The defense ministry said there was no gunfire from the North when the soldier appeared. Later Thursday, South Korea detected North Korean soldiers apparently pursuing the soldier and fired 20 warning shots, according to the Associated Press. Gunfire was later heard from the North, but it may not have been retaliatory.
A month ago a North Korean soldier drove a jeep down a tree-lined road and then ran across the DMZ under a hail of at least 40 bullets from his ex-comrades. He suffered at least five gunshot wounds.
The defector in November managed to reach the Joint Security Area within the DMZ, which forms the de facto border between the Koreas since the Korean War, and took cover. He was later rescued by South Korean soldiers and airlifted by a U.S. forces helicopter to Ajou University Hospital in Suwon, where he underwent surgery for his wounds. He is believed to still be recovering there.
November’s incident was the first shooting at the DMZ since 1984, when the two sides exchanged gunfire when a Soviet citizen ran across the border to defect to the South.
Thursday’s defection was the fourth by a North Korean soldier across the DMZ this year. It occurred in a more remote area of the DMZ, which is 4 kilometers wide (2½ miles) and 248 kilometers (155-miles) long.