A visitor walks by a map of two Koreas at the Imjingak Pavilion in Paju, South Korea, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017. South Korea’s military fired 20 rounds of warning shots Thursday as North Korean soldiers approached a borderline after their comrade defected to South Korea, officials said. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

South Korea fires warning shots after North soldier defects

South Korean soldiers fired warning shots at North Korean soldiers chasing a comrade

South Korean soldiers fired 20 warning machine-gun rounds Thursday, turning back North Korean soldiers apparently pursuing a comrade who had earlier dashed across the rivals’ shared border, officials said. It is the fourth time this year a North Korean soldier has defected across the world’s most heavily armed border.

South Korean military officials said they heard gunfire from the North after South Korea fired its warning shots, but it wasn’t clear if the firing was retaliatory. Neither side immediately reported casualties.

North Korean soldiers occasionally flee over the land border, but there have been few defections as dramatic as one that happened nearly 40 days ago, when a northern soldier crossed at a different, very public place — a jointly controlled area that is the only place where troops from the rivals face off only feet away from each other. That soldier was shot five times by his former comrades in an escape caught on video. He has been recovering in a hospital. The site of that defection is familiar to many foreign tourists, who can visit the blue huts that straddle the line between the rivals.

Related: North Korea says war is inevitable

Thursday’s defection happened at a much more remote section of the 4 kilometre (2.5 mile)-wide, 248-kilometre (155-mile) -long Demilitarized Zone, which serves as the border between the Koreas. When the defecting soldier — reportedly a 19-year-old — arrived at a front-line South Korean guard post, there was no shooting from the North, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. Spokesman Roh Jae-cheon said the motive for the defection is under investigation.

Later Thursday, however, South Korea’s military detected several North Korean soldiers approaching the line between the countries in the DMZ, prompting the South to broadcast a warning and fire 20 warning shots, said a South Korean defence official, requesting anonymity because of department rules.

Related: North Korea launches another missile

The North Korean soldiers who approached the line were believed to be on a mission to hunt down their defecting comrade. They turned back to the North after the South’s warning shots, the official said. About 40 minutes later, soldiers twice heard several rounds of gunshot on the North Korean side of the border. No North Korean bullets were found in the South, the official said.

The latest defection was the fourth North Korean soldier to flee through the DMZ this year, the Defence Ministry said. About 30,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea mostly via China since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

In a separate incident, two North Korean men found aboard a wooden boat off the east coast on Wednesday asked to resettle in the South, according to Seoul’s Unification Ministry.

Animosities run high on the Korean Peninsula as North Korea has been accelerating its weapons tests as part of its stated goal of achieving a nuclear missile capable of striking anywhere in the United States. Last month, North Korea test-fired its biggest and most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile to date.

Related: Vernon man confined in North Korea

Hyung-Jin Kim, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Rare white orca spotted hunting off shores of Alaska for first time

Tl’uk seems healthy and strong, says researcher

Mental health challenges add to youth stress load

Part 2 in a Black Press series on Youth Homelessness

Langford bike park rolling along to completion

New park a tribute to Jordie Lunn’s legacy

Protesters showcase massive old yellow cedar as Port Renfrew area forest blockade continues

9.5-foot-wide yellow cedar measured by Ancient Forest Alliance campaigners in Fairy Creek watershed

Sooke Bluffs staircase closed due to rot

District to consider replacement for ‘high risk’ staircase in fall

VIDEO: Greater Victoria police officers try bhangra dancing with social media star

Gurdeep Pandher leads bhangra lesson on front lawn of the BC Legislature building

Captain Horvat’s OT marker lifts Canucks to 4-3 win over Blues

Vancouver takes 2-0 lead in best-of-7 NHL playoff series with St. Louis

Widow of slain Red Deer doctor thanks community for support ahead of vigil

Fellow doctors, members of the public will gather for a physically-distanced vigil in central Alberta

Taking dog feces and a jackhammer to neighbourhood dispute costs B.C. man $16,000

‘Pellegrin’s actions were motivated by malice …a vindictive, pointless, dangerous and unlawful act’

Racist stickers at Keremeos pub leaves group uneasy and angry

The ‘OK’ hand gesture is a known hate-symbol

VIDEO: World responds to B.C. girl after pandemic cancels birthday party

Dozens of cards and numerous packages were delivered to six-year-old Charlie Manning

Expected fall peak of COVID-19 in Canada could overwhelm health systems: Tam

National modelling projections released Friday show an expected peak in cases this fall

Hundreds of sea lions to be killed on Columbia River in effort to save endangered fish

Nearly 22,000 comments received during public review were opposed, fewer than 200 were for

Most Read