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UNC cancels release of JSA footage, mulls later date

Nov 17,2017
The United Nations Command (UNC) decided on Thursday not to publicize the footage of a North Korean soldier’s defection through the Joint Security Area earlier this week, after they initially planned to reveal what was said to be a 26-second CCTV clip of the ordeal.

On Monday at around 3:14 p.m., the defector drove up in a military Jeep near the military demarcation line (MDL), exited the vehicle and crossed to the South on foot as his fellow North Korean soldiers fired 40 shots at him, wounding him in at least five places.

He was later retrieved by South Korean soldiers and evacuated by helicopter to a hospital in Suwon, Gyeonggi.

But there has been growing public controversy over whether the North Korean soldiers violated the armistice agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War by possibly firing over the MDL. It is unclear whether the footage would have clarified the matter.

“There needs to be more deliberation within the UNC,” a UNC official told reporters that afternoon on why the footage could not be revealed that day. The official said that the UNC had “nothing to hide” and that the Joint Chiefs of Staff had not opposed releasing the footage.

The official added that the clip’s brevity could have brewed more controversy, and that the UNC is considering releasing a longer version.

But the UNC has not yet set a later date for its release.

Such CCTV footage, installed at the JSA for surveillance purposes, must be approved by the UNC before it can be shown to the public.

Gen. Vincent Brooks, commander of the U.S. Forces Korea and the United Nations Command, will have final say over whether the footage is released and, if so, what parts are to be released. Brooks was on a trip to Japan on Thursday, where he met with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera.

Another question is why South Korean troops did not return fire at the JSA when North Korean soldiers shot in their direction.

The South Korean military said the North’s use of AK-47 assault rifles constitutes a violation of the armistice agreement and that it would lodge a protest against the North through the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission (Uncmac).

South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo defended the soldiers’ decision to minimize the conflict in a parliamentary session Tuesday.

On Thursday, the Blue House clarified that South Korea’s troops acted in accordance to the UN Command’s rules of engagement at the JSA. South Korean troops are not authorized to use military force in the area unless approved by the UNC, though its army took over the duty of keeping security within the JSA from the United States in 2004.

“The rules of engagement governing the JSA were drafted by the United Nations Command,” a Blue House official told reporters, “and the South Korean Ministry of National Defense does not have the authority to modify it.”

He added, “The South Korean military cannot arbitrarily modify the rules of operation at the JSA. We can express our opinion, but since the authority lies with the UNC, it is not a matter for the South Korean government to say do this or that.”

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]