Another North Korean soldier made a dash for freedom across the Demilitarized Zone on Thursday. His escape came just hours after two North Korean civilians attempted to defect in a fishing boat.
“That brings the total number of North Koreans who have defected by taking dangerous routes either directly across the border or by sea to 15 so far this year, including two other soldiers. That is three times the number last year,” Reuters reports, citing South Korean officials.
A South Korean defense official said up to 20 warning shots were fired at North Korean troops to keep them back from the “military demarcation line” about an hour after the soldier defected under cover of heavy fog. The North Korean troops warned away from the demarcation line were described as a search party looking for the defector. Gunfire from North Korea was heard later, but it is not clear what they were shooting at.
CBS News reports Thursday’s defection occurred at a more remote location along the DMZ than the previous incident, which was captured on multiple security cameras in a cross-border complex used by both North and South Korea.
According to the CBS report, the new defector is 19 years old, while CNN describes him as being in his “late teens or early 20s.” South Korean officials have described him as a “low-ranking” soldier in the North Korean military.
The North Korean soldier who ran for freedom a few weeks ago was shot multiple times as he made his escape, and at least one of his pursuers violated the military demarcation line, prompting a formal warning to North Korea from the South Korean government.
As for the two civilian defectors, a naval patrol aircraft reportedly spotted their boat Wednesday morning, and the South Korean Coast Guard rescued them a few hours later.
Reuters speculates that the new defections might “threaten to complicate South Korea’s efforts to ensure the smooth running of the 2018 Winter Olympics, which begin in Pyeongchang in February.” On the other hand, the North Korean team is already doing extremely well in the 1000-Meter Dash for Freedom competition.
An interesting side note in the Reuters article mentions that U.S. military bases have discovered North Korean propaganda flyers and CDs distributed on their premises. Base personnel have been instructed to watch for “insider threats,” presumably from North Korean agents. A North Korean defector recently warned that the Kim regime has been training a squad of brainwashed suicide bombers who might even be deployed with “nuclear backpacks.”