Escaped North Korean soldier fights for life after being shot crossing DMZ

North Korea is seen across the Yalu River from the border with China in a file

North Korean soldier defects to South Korea at truce village

A North Korean soldier involved in an extremely rare and dramatic defection to the South was shot six times by his own side as he drove to the heavily guarded border and ran across under a hail of bullets.

The soldier crossed to South Korea from the North Korean side of the heavily guarded Joint Security Area (JSA) to Freedom House in the South, according to the JCS.

But there was no direct exchange of gunfire between South and North Korean guards in the process.

South Korea's military said it has strengthened its vigilance and readiness posture in case of a possible military provocation by the North.

All channels for dialogue are now cut off between Seoul and Pyongyang after North Korea's relentless development of nuclear weapons and missiles.

It wasn't immediately known how serious the soldier's injuries were or why he made a decision to defect.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff official said he was found collapsed in a pile of fallen leaves and recovered by three South Korean soldiers crawling on their stomachs to his position.

These were the first gunshots fired at the truce village of Panmunjom in 33 years and the first defection of a North Korean soldier since 2007.

If North Korea is proven to have fired shots through the area, this would constitute a breach of the armistice agreement. American presidents often visit Panmunjom and other DMZ areas during their trips to South Korea to reaffirm their security commitment to the South. Trump planned to visit the DMZ to underscore his stance against North Korea's nuclear program when he came to South Korea last week as part of an Asian tour, but his plans were thwarted by heavy fog that prevented his helicopter from landing at the border area. They stand only several yards away from tall South Korean soldiers wearing aviator sunglasses and standing motionless like statues. In September the North carried out its sixth and largest nuclear test, of what it described as a hydrogen bomb.

Seo said three North Korean troops and one soldier who were on guard opened fire on the escaping soldier, firing around 40 shots. In 1998, a North Korean solider fled to South Korea via Panmunjom.

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