Skip to main content

North Korean soldier shoots comrades, defects to South

By Ben Brumfield and KJ Kwon, CNN
October 6, 2012 -- Updated 1415 GMT (2215 HKT)
North Korean soldiers look at South Korea across the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
North Korean soldiers look at South Korea across the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • South Korean soldiers hear gunfire before the defector crosses
  • The North Korean says he killed his platoon and squad leaders
  • Defections over land via the heavily armed DMZ are rare
  • The number of refugees fleeing per year has climbed dramatically over the years

(CNN) -- A North Korean soldier on guard duty at the border dividing the two Koreas defected, telling authorities who received him in the South that he killed his superiors before fleeing across the Military Demarcation Line.

South Korean soldiers at their guard posts reported hearing gunfire before he crossed into the South shortly after noon local time, according to a news release from South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Soldiers in the South took the defector in on their side of the border and brought him to a safe place for questioning then tightened security in the area.

The North Korean said that "while he was on guard duty, he killed his platoon and squad leaders and defected thereafter," the JCS said.

Defections over land through the heavily armed and fortified Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) are rare, as most fleeing the communist North prefer the greater odds of success of crossing by sea.

"The last North Korean soldier who defected (over land) was in March 2010," said a spokesman from the defense ministry in Seoul.

But with his comrades dead and no longer capable of hindering him, it was easy for the soldier to flee south.

"The distance between the North Korean guard post and the South Korean guard post is 500 meters," the official said, who asked not to be named, because he is not authorized to speak with the media.

More than 24,000 refugees have entered the South from the North since the country's division, according to the Ministry of Unification in Seoul, over two-thirds of them women.

The annual number of refugees has climbed steadily from less than 100 in the 1990s to more than 2,000 per year since 2006.

North Korea defector living with quarter of a century of guilt

North Korean defector stands for South Korean election

After escape from North Korea, artist turns from propaganda to pop art

From the archives: South Korea won't return 9 defectors from the North

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 0025 GMT (0825 HKT)
North Korea has released photos that claim to show leader Kim Jong Un, whose absence for over a month has raised speculation.
October 11, 2014 -- Updated 0543 GMT (1343 HKT)
Despite tense relations, China benefits from Kim Jong Un's rule in North Korea. David McKenzie explains.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 0851 GMT (1651 HKT)
North Korea has "the world's most advantageous human rights system," the country declares.
September 2, 2014 -- Updated 0135 GMT (0935 HKT)
Three Americans detained in North Korea spoke out about their conditions Monday in an exclusive interview with CNN.
May 28, 2013 -- Updated 1041 GMT (1841 HKT)
Beijing-based tour company posts exclusive photos and video from inspection visit.
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 0137 GMT (0937 HKT)
CNN's Will Ripley makes a rare live report from reclusive North Korea.
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 0852 GMT (1652 HKT)
The crowd cheers as the stars make their way to the ring for first pro-wrestling bout North Korea has seen in almost 20 years.
March 27, 2013 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
A German photographer returns from the closed country with unlikely pictures of everyday residents.
December 2, 2013 -- Updated 1316 GMT (2116 HKT)
Visiting the DPRK is easy these days, so long as you don't forget to play by their rules.
September 2, 2014 -- Updated 1445 GMT (2245 HKT)
CNN's Will Ripley is given a rare look inside North Korea and tours Kim Jong Un's pet project, a waterpark.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
North Korea rejected an invitation to the Pope's Mass in Seoul. CNN's Paula Hancocks reports.
July 2, 2014 -- Updated 2225 GMT (0625 HKT)
As diplomats discuss a string of unsolved kidnappings of Japanese citizens by North Korea, the families of those abducted anxiously wait.
June 5, 2014 -- Updated 2344 GMT (0744 HKT)
New signs show Russia and North Korea are developing a closer relationship.
May 22, 2014 -- Updated 0012 GMT (0812 HKT)
Photographer Eric Lafforgue visited North Korea and shares his inside look at the most isolated country in the world.
May 13, 2014 -- Updated 0125 GMT (0925 HKT)
Many North Koreans listen to illegal broadcasts on homemade radios, some are convinced to defect.
May 8, 2014 -- Updated 1926 GMT (0326 HKT)
Jang Jin-Sung, a North Korean defector and former regime insider, speaks with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
ADVERTISEMENT