PYONGYANG, North Korea — Dramatic video showing a North Korean soldier fleeing across the border into South Korea while being shot at by his former comrades was released by the United Nations Command on Wednesday.
The video’s release marks the first time the American-led U.N. Command has disclosed security footage of a defection across the heavily fortified demilitarized zone that divides North and South Korea, said Hochong Song, a public affairs officer for U.S. Forces Korea.
By firing across the DMZ at the defector, North Korean soldiers violated the Korean War armistice, said the U.N. Command, which oversees the 64-year-old ceasefire agreement.
One North Korean soldier also crossed the military demarcation line — another violation of the armistice that paused the Korean War in 1953 — said Col. Chad Carroll, U.S. Forces Korea public affairs director.
A peace treaty formally ending the war has never been signed.
Carroll said the U.N. Command had notified the North Korean People’s Army of the violations via regular communication channels and requested a meeting to discuss the results of the U.N. investigation into the incident as well as measures to prevent future such violations.
“The armistice agreement was challenged, but it remains in place,” said Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, the American who leads the U.N. Command.
The 24-year-old soldier, surnamed Oh, has regained consciousness and is undergoing further treatment, the hospital treating him said Wednesday.
He’s been listening to South Korean and Western music, and watching television.
Oh, whose rank has not been revealed, is the third member of the North Korean armed forces to defect this year.
U.N. Forces Korea said North Korea has violated the armistice “several” times, but Korean authorities put that number higher.
According to a document from the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff, North Korea has been accused of defying the armistice thousands of times since 1953, though not all the violations are nearly as dramatic as a shootout caught on camera.
North Korea claims the South has also breached the armistice thousands of times.
The security footage begins at 3:11 p.m. local time on Nov. 13, with a wide shot of a military vehicle speeding down a tree-lined street on the North Korean side of the DMZ.
It moves past a North Korean guard post ahead of the bridge at 3:13 p.m.
What appears to be a soldier exits the building as the vehicle rushes past. Moments later, the vehicle crosses a bridge.
It then approaches a monument to North Korea’s founding father, Kim Il Sung, the starting point for North Korean tours of the Joint Security Area.
Carroll said there were no tour groups on either side of the DMZ when the defection occurred.
The driver turns right at the monument, just steps away from South Korea. It’s still 3:13 p.m. Under the cover of trees, the vehicle appears to stop.
At 3:14 p.m., North Korean soldiers run toward the vehicle from an adjacent guard tower and from the steps at Panmungak, the main building on the North Korean side of the JSA.
The video then shows the defecting soldier getting out from the driver’s side of the vehicle and starting to run.
Four North Korean soldiers appear in frame near the vehicle. One falls to the ground, though it’s unclear why. Another appears to fire his gun.
One North Korean soldier then briefly crosses the MDL.
At 3:43 p.m., Carroll says the video shows the defecting soldier lying against a retaining wall in a pile of leaves on the South Korean side of the DMZ.
It’s another 12-minute jump to the next clip. It shows heat signatures of the wounded defector and three soldiers who are tasked with recovering him.
More forces were in the area, Carroll said, but only three went to his immediate vicinity.
Two people — noncommissioned officers according to Carroll — crawl on the ground and make their way to the injured North Korean while another, who Carroll said is the South Korean JSA deputy battalion commander, stands guard.