One month ago, a North Korean soldier defected to South Korea, and his escape was captured in dramatic footage that revealed how his comrades shot him (and violated the Korean War armistice in the process) as he crossed the demilitarized zone. Now, another soldier — the fourth one this year — has made the same journey and, miraculously, was not fired at, although shots were later volleyed by both North Korean and South Korean soldiers.
CNN reports that the soldier entered South Korea around 8:00 am local time, and no shots rang out until 9:30 am from South Korean soldiers, who fired 20 times as a warning to North Korean soldiers who might be looking for the defector. Gunfire was heard north of the DMZ about 45 minutes later, but USA Today adds that no bullets were found to have crossed the South Korean border. The New York Times notes how these DMZ escapes may appear to be more common lately, but they’re actually “extremely rare”:
More than 30,000 North Koreans have fled to South Korea since a famine killed at least a million people in the North in the 1990s … But it is extremely rare for people to flee across the demilitarized zone. The 2.5-mile-wide DMZ, considered the most heavily fortified border in the world, is guarded by minefields, sentry posts and tall fences topped with barbed wire, some electrified.
The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff have revealed that 15 North Koreans (the 4 soldiers among them) total have made a break directly to South Korea in 2017, which is higher than the 5 people (with 1 soldier included) who did so in 2016. This jump could be down to deteriorating conditions under Kim Jong-un’s regime, since fleeing across the DMZ is a much more treacherous route than heading into China. Indeed, November’s North Korean defector was found to be harboring numerous large tapeworms, which has to be a sign that things are pretty rough all around to the north.