Harrowing footage has been released of the moment a North Korean soldier was shot by his comrades as he made a mad scramble to freedom across the border.
The United Nations Command (UNC) in South Korea released the video as Kim Jong-un’s regime was accused of violating an armistice agreement put in place in 1953 following the Korean War, by shooting across the border as well as actually crossing the Military Demarcation Line (MDL).
The soldier, whose rank and identity have not been disclosed, was flown by a US military helicopter to a hospital after his escape south in a hail of bullets fired by the North on November 13.
The video, which is divided into five sections, takes place over just a matter of minutes.
Beginning at 3.11pm local time, the defector can be seen speeding towards the MDL in a Jeep before appearing to get stuck in a ditch.
Part three shows the moments the armistice was seemingly violated, when Korean People’s Army (KPA) shoot in the direction of the defector, and one can even be seen crossing the MDL before realizing his mistake and retreating.
The fourth part of the video sees a group of North Korean soldiers apparently coming together to address the situation before the final part of the video, which lasts a total of seven minutes, shows South Korean soldiers inching towards the defector and dragging him to safety.
‘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,’ Chad Carroll, Director of Public Affairs for the UNC, told reporters.
The video does not show the moment when the defector was hit by half a dozen rounds fired by the North Korean guards, but he eventually collapses next to a concrete wall, 150feet south of the MDL.
South Korea’s military said more than more than 40 bullets were fired at the soldier, from pistols and from an AK-47.
The soldier, who was shot five times and underwent multiple surgeries, has regained consciousness but needs further treatment, his surgeon Lee Guk-jong, said in a separate news conference Wednesday.
‘The reason that he defected, risking death and facing a barrage of gunshots, was because he had positive hopes about South Korea,’ Lee told reporters.
Last week, doctors said the soldier sustained five gunshot wounds on his right buttock, left armpit, back shoulder, right upper arm and right knee.
After undergoing two operations to repair internal organ damage and other injuries, the defector was conscious and no longer needed a ventilator. He is expected to live.
Early in recovery, the defector reportedly communicated with doctors by blinking his eyes and changing his facial expressions, reported the South Korean newspaper Dong-a Ilbo.
Because he is showing signs of depression, he could spend several more days in intensive care.
‘As the patient is showing signs of depression due to intense psychological stress following two rounds of major surgeries, he will undergo tests for post-traumatic stress disorder,’ Lee told reporters.
‘It’s not like the patient will open his eyes and walk out of the hospital after surgery as you see in movies,’ he said.
The soldier was also found to have dozens of parasites, some as long as 10 inches, in his ruptured intestines, which may be reflective of poor nutrition and health in North Korea’s military.
‘In my over 20 year-long career as a surgeon, I have only seen something like this in a textbook,’ Lee said.
He added that the former soldier had viruses that could lead to liver cancer, and is impaired already with a number of diseases including pneumonia, sepsis and hepatitis B.
The Yonhap news agency on Tuesday cited a government official as saying that depending on medical advice, an interrogation team is expected to question the defector in four or five days’ time.
The soldier, a staff sergeant believed to be in his early 20s, is the third member of the North Korean armed forces to defect this year.
Two North Korean soldiers defected to the South in June after crossing the frontier at another location.
More than 30,000 North Korean civilians have also fled their homeland since the two nations came into existence in 1948, but it is rare for civilians to cross the closely guarded border.
Most flee across the North’s border with China and then move on to a third country in hopes of seeking passage to South Korea.