North Korea defector regains consciousness, video shows getaway under fire

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean border guards were only steps behind a fellow North Korean soldier when they opened fire and one briefly crossed the border pursuing the wounded defector as he dashed to the South Korean side, a video released on Wednesday by the U.N. Command (UNC) in Seoul showed.

A CCTV footage shows a North Korean soldier crossing the white Military Demarcation Line during a United Nations Command (UNC) briefing on the investigation results of another soldier’s defection, at the South Korean defence ministry in Seoul in this still image taken from a Reuters TV video, November 22, 2017. REUTERS/Reuters TV

The defector was critically wounded, having been hit at least four times in the hail of bullets as he made his desperate escape on Nov.13. He was flown by a U.S. military helicopter to a hospital in Suwon, south of Seoul.

Doctors announced on Wednesday that he had regained consciousness, having had two operations to extract the bullets, and his breathing was stable and unassisted.

“He is fine,” lead surgeon Lee Cook-Jong said at a press conference in Suwon. “He is not going to die.”

A UNC official said North Korea had been informed on Wednesday that it had violated the 1953 armistice agreement, which marked the cessation of hostilities in the Korean War.

The UNC official told a news conference that a soldier from the North Korean People’s Army (KPA) had crossed the Military Demarcation Line (MDL), the border between the two Koreas, for a few seconds as others fired shots at the defecting soldier.

“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 incident comes at a time of heightened tensions between North Korea and the international community over its nuclear weapons program, but Pyongyang has not publicly responded to the high-profile defection at the sensitive border.

For a graphic on defector’s escape, click reut.rs/2zAUDRN

For a graphic on North Korea defectors, click here

DESPERATE ESCAPE

The dramatic video begins with a lone 4×4 army jeep speeding along empty, tree-lined roads toward the border.

At one checkpoint, a North Korean guard marches impassively toward the approaching vehicle, but then runs in pursuit as it races by.

After passing a memorial to North Korea founder Kim Il Sung, where…

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