One brave North Korean soldier defected to South Korea in a daring escape across the demilitarized zone (DMZ) on Thursday. The South Korean military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the North Korean soldier was stationed at his usual guard post along the DMZ. A cover of a thick fog that surrounded his post after 8 a.m. created the perfect circumstances for the low-ranking soldier to escape.
Nature allowed the North Korean soldier to have a much easier time escaping to South Korea than his former comrade that was shot five times after he defected across the border five weeks ago.
North Korean troops frantically searched for the missing soldier but got too close to the “military demarcation line.” The close encounter prompted South Korean guards to fire up to 20 warning shots across the militarized border, according to Reuters.
On Wednesday, there were two more North Korean civilians who also wanted to defect. According to North Korean officials, these civilians were found on a wooden fishing boat. The civilians took dangerous routes to accomplish this task, which was carried out by sea or done so by escaping across the border.
The 2018 Winter Olympics were set to begin in Pyeongchang, South Korea, on February 9. The defections have increased tension between the two Koreas and the assurance of a problem-free 2018 Winter Olympics.
The weak ticket sales throughout the fall of 2017 may crush the hopes that South Korea had when they envisioned the economic growth and a grand influx of foreign visitors that the 2018 Olympics could bring. According to Pyeongchang 2018 Organizing Committee president Lee Hee-beom, South Korea wanted to be viewed as “the new hub for winter sports in Asia,” according to Time magazine.
Currently, the United States has 28,500 troops in South Korea. Officials from North Korea are claiming that regular U.S.-South Korean military drills are provocations and can be considered a prelude to an invasion. The rogue state continues to make regular threats to destroy the United States and its Asian allies, Japan and South Korea.
North Koreans Who Defect To South Korea
North Korean defectors usually take the trek through China, which is considered much less dangerous. China is North Korea’s ally. However, if a North Korean attempts to escape through this route instead of crossing over the DMZ, they will have less contact with landmines, barbed wire, electric fencing, and surveillance cameras.
On November 13, security footage was released by the United Nations Command that showed the dramatic escape of a 24-year-old North Korean soldier that fled across the DMZ and into South Korea. The soldier, who was later identified as Oh, was shot a total of five times by his former comrades in the North Korean army.
Oh was taken to a South Korean hospital via an emergency medical flight. Within the first 30 minutes, after Oh was rushed to the hospital’s trauma unit, South Korean surgeon Lee Cook-Jong and his team worked very hard to keep Oh breathing.
“He has one (bullet) through his right knee joint; the other one is the tricep muscle area on his arm, the third one was his back; chest and coming out from his shoulder.”
While operating on the North Korean soldier for several hours, Lee discovered parasites. Lee said this was a complication that he had never seen in his 20-year career as a surgeon. Lee encountered the parasites during the operation as he worked to remove a bullet that went through Oh’s intestines.
Lee described Oh’s vital signs as so unstable that a few times during the grueling operation, he thought the defector would die on the surgical table.
“It’s a miracle that he survived.”
All of the parasites were removed from Oh’s system, and some of them were reported to be more than 10 inches long, according to CNN.
Currently, Oh is reported to be walking, talking, and going to the bathroom on his own. Lee said that his condition is stable but still grave as complications from tuberculosis and hepatitis B continue to compromise his recovery, especially his liver function.
Oh was also placed under psychiatric care and may be struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.
There have been more than 880 North Koreans that have defected to South Korea in 2017.