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North Korean bullets crossed border in JSA

UNC now plans to release video of event after probe is done
Nov 18,2017
The bullets fired by North Korean soldiers to stop one of their own from defecting through the Joint Security Area earlier this week crossed the inter-Korean border in violation of the armistice agreement, military sources told the JoongAng Ilbo on Thursday.

The Military Armistice Commission(MAC) of the United Nations Command(UNC), which oversees the 1950-53 Korean War armistice agreement, discovered the bullets during its site investigation on Monday, the sources said.

On Monday at around 3:14 p.m., the defector drove up in a military vehicle near the military demarcation line (MDL), the land border that separates the two Koreas. He exited the vehicle and crossed to the South on foot as four North Korean soldiers fired about 40 rounds at him using pistols and at least one using an AK-47 assault rifle, wounding him in at least five places. The possession of an AK-47 assault rifle inside the JSA is a violation of armistice rules.

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

The site investigation by MAC discovered North Korean pistol and rifle bullets in trees near a South Korean guard post inside the JSA. The bullets were discovered about 20 to 30 meters (66 to 98 feet) south of the military demarcation line. The Armistice Agreement forbids hostile acts inside the Demilitarized Zone. The South Korean military did not fire back.

The UNC planned to use photographs of the bullet marks to challenge the North for its violation of the Armistice Agreement, sources said.

Minister of National Defense Song Young-moo told the Defense Committee of the National Assembly on Tuesday that the bullets ended up in the South, but on the same day, an official of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the military never briefed the minister on the matter, fueling skepticism about the remarks.

The UNC also suspects that one of the North Korean soldiers crossed the military demarcation line during the chase. In the South’s video records, a North Korean soldier is shown running and shooting to stop the defector before abruptly stopping. The soldier briefly hesitates, then returns to the North.

Inside the JSA, the military demarcation line is marked by blocks of concrete near the MAC building. But in other areas, no marking exists. The military demarcation line exactly bisects the center of the MAC building, separating the space between the North and the South.

“The North Korean soldier in the footage appeared to be in panic after he became aware that he had crossed the military demarcation line,” a military source told the JoongAng Ilbo.

The UNC said it will conduct additional investigations to confirm the movements of the North Korean soldiers in pursuit.

The command will lodge a protest to the North through MAC, but the complaint may be ineffective since the North no longer recognizes the commission. General-level talks between the UNC and the North have also been suspended since March 2009, leaving no channel to address the incident. The UNC said Friday that it will delay the release of a CCTV record of the defection until after its investigation is complete.

“When the probe is done, we will make public more detailed information,” the UNC said.

Little is known about the identity of the defector, as he is still undergoing medical treatment. The National Intelligence Service briefed the Intelligence Committee of the National Assembly on Thursday, saying the defector is a staff sergeant in his 20s who had been stationed at the JSA, according to Rep. Kim Byung-kee of the Democratic Party.

BY SER MYO-JA, LEE CHUL-JAE [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]